Immigrants First - Community Advocacy

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Community Advocacy

From its inception, our Firm has advocated for the fair and just treatment of foreign nationals, especially those living in Prince William County, VA (about 30 miles southwest of Washington, DC) and the DC Metro area. We have done over 50 Know Your Rights presentations to more than 5,000 foreign nationals on issues such as: what to do if you are stopped by the police or if Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) comes to your home, and how to prepare for family emergencies.

Our Firm has worked with other community-based organizations to formulate raid response teams that coordinate lawyers and social service workers to provide immediate relief to families who have had a family member detained by ICE or deported. We have also done outreach with the U.S. citizen community in order to facilitate a greater understanding of our immigration system, the push and pull factors that have caused immigration to the United States to increase, and the benefits to our community from increased acceptance of immigrants.

In the course of our advocacy work, we have testified before the Virginia State Advisory Committee of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, the Virginia Commission on Immigration, and at the County Supervisor Board meetings, in order to provide pertinent legal analysis on the constitutional enforcement of immigration laws.

On a more personal note, Lisa Johnson-Firth, the principal of the Firm, participated in the Prince William Study Circles sponsored by George Mason University where she had the opportunity to share perspectives with others holding diverse views of immigration policies in an effort to create a better-informed and more cohesive community. She has also been trained in cross-cultural and cross-board mediation and is the Immigration Advisor to the grassroots organization, Unity in the Community.


Community Note on Prince William County:
Mexican dancers show their stuff at a Latino Festival in Manassas. However, a Prince William County resolution targeting the immigrant population in Prince William and Manassas has devastated the community. Passed in October 2007, it allowed the police to question the immigration status of any person stopped if he or she appeared to be in violation of federal immigration laws and then turn that person over to ICE if he or she was out of status. The resolution also required that police enter into a cooperation agreement with ICE to become enforcement agents under Section 287(g) of the Immigration and Nationality Act. These changes in the law resulted in racial profiling by the police and in conjunction with increased ICE raids on neighborhoods and businesses, resulted in countless numbers of foreign nationals being detained and, placed in removal proceedings.

In April 2008, the County resolution was modified to make such questioning discretionary in a pre-arrest scenario and mandatory for all persons arrested. Although this eliminated some racial profiling, the numbers of foreign nationals being detained and deported through the 287(g) program have remained high compared to years earlier.