Last week, the House of Delegate Committee on Veterans Affairs and Homeland Security took up two anti-immigrant bills before abruptly ending its meeting. One of the bills in consideration would have permitted the governor or local communities to prohibit refugees from resettling in West Virginia. The other bill would have required local police to enforce federal immigration law to the greatest extent allowed under law.
We’re staunchly opposed to these xenophobic attempts to exclude hard-working, qualified individuals from choosing West Virginia as their home. Anti-immigrant policies have no place in a state that values compassion and hospitality. It’s no secret that West Virginia continues to decline in population, why then would we ever want to turn people away from our state? This is especially alarming when you consider that immigrants contributed $76.3 million in West Virginia state taxes in 2016 alone. With stats like that, we should be pushing pro-immigrant policies rather than shameful efforts to shut ourselves off from people who want to come here, along with opportunity for growth they would bring.
As soon as we heard rumblings of these divisive, racist bills, we ramped up our efforts to stop the them from moving. We called upon our coalition of faith leaders who immediately responded and showed up to speak against these attacks on immigrants. The bills were briefly discussed in committee, but due to pressure from our coalition, the meeting was ended without further consideration for either piece of legislation.
To ensure the legislature heard our message loud and clear, we, along with 39 faith leaders and civic organizations across West Virginia, sent a letter to Speaker Hanshaw outlining our opposition to the bills that ran in committee last week and demanding that the legislature refrain from pushing any additional anti-immigrant policies.
This isn’t a right or left issue – this is about living the values we cherish as West Virginians and not wasting opportunities to grow our state. With a little over one week left to go before bills must cross-over, we’re watching and ready to defeat any other attacks on immigrants in West Virginia.