Testimony Presented to the District of Columbia Committee of the Whole
On PR 21-617, Sense of the Council Regarding Federal Immigration Raids Resolution of 2016
By Lori Kaplan, President & CEO, Latin American Youth Center
November 17, 2016
My name is Lori Kaplan and I am President & CEO of the Latin American Youth Center (LAYC). I have served in this role since 1987 and have worked at LAYC since 1979. LAYC supports the hopes and dreams of over 4000 Latino, African American, and multicultural youth annually in the District of Columbia and Maryland. Our rich history of service to the Latino and African American community, and the community at large, is tied directly to our support for the Council’s resolution denouncing Federal Immigration Raids.
I know that this hearing was scheduled long before the recent election. But obviously, the need to approve this resolution is more urgent than before.
We would like to thank Councilmember Nadeau and Mayor Bowser for their recent statements in support of the District’s residents and DC’s Sanctuary City status. I truly appreciate the strong statements made by Councilmembers White, Grosso, and Silverman as the hearing opened in support of our city’s immigrants, all residents and youth. Perhaps other Councilmembers have also made statements, but they have not yet reached my desk. These strong comments, however, are only the first steps towards seeking safety, justice, full inclusion, and protection for the District’s most vulnerable residents. Words must now be put into action.
The racism, misogyny, and bigotry exposed throughout the recent campaign season has left members of our community living in fear for what will come next. Proposed and unknown policies threaten the life and well-being of our youth and families. Our local government leaders must step up now without hesitation to outline steps that will be taken to protect all of the District’s residents. Not only are immigrants, documented or not, targeted in the new administration’s proposed policies, but so are our youth and students of color, in particular those who identify as LGBTQ, or as Muslim/Arab-American.
Over the coming month, we look to the Council for their full support and action on the following:
- A strong and visible public stance from DC’s leaders reaffirming the District as a Sanctuary City with clear declaration that the DC government will not cooperate with federal immigration officials. This should be followed by enforceable legislative action outlining DC government’s limitations to cooperation with immigration officials for the protection of our residents.
- Swift approval and implementation of the UDC DREAM Amendment Act of 2015 to ensure that not one more undocumented DC youth is denied access to higher education due to financial barriers.
- An immediate hearing and approval of the 2015 Language Access for Education Amendment Act to ensure strong enforcement of the Act’s provisions and provide Non-English Proficient, Limited English Proficient parents, students, and community members with critical resources.
- Increase support from Council to fund more summer enrichment programs to support youth ineligible for DC’s Summer Youth Employment Program.
- Increase mental health support for our youth and families.
- Support a strong out-of-school time program with much greater resources than in years past.
- Ensure that appropriate local dollars are available to support local youth organizations who may be at risk of losing federal funding. The District is sitting on a reserve of local funds and our youth will need it. The LAYC will need to be strong, resilient, and have the ability to respond quickly and with urgency.
- And I am sure that other unknown challenges are just lurking around the corner.
We can no longer wait for the right time to act on these measures. We ask our government leaders to stand boldly with LAYC’s youth, our immigrant community, and all other marginalized communities vulnerable to the new threats. The time is now!