New American Voices:
My Vote Matters
The IRC in Charlottesville and IRC in Richmond have launched a campaign to help newly naturalized citizens exercise their right to vote. New U.S. citizens can opt-in to receive texts about how to register to vote in-person, online, or by mail. They will also learn about mail-in ballots, early voting in-person, and polling locations.
When formed, and why:
In March of 2017, then-Mayor Mike Signer invited a number of people to join a new task force dedicated to the goal of making our community as welcoming to all as possible. Two years earlier the City of Charlottesville had taken certain steps to be accepted into the Welcoming America network, which promotes the same goal nation-wide. Since 3/17, we have been meeting monthly to develop specific initiatives to help the community become more welcoming. The Task Force has no formal affiliation with either the City or County, but we maintain ongoing communications with elected and appointed officials of both municipalities.
As a nation, our diverse origins are and should be seen as a great strength. In the current political environment, we strongly reject demonization of and attacks against immigrants and minorities and will take peaceful measures to oppose such attacks. Given this situation, our mission is to create a welcoming community, one that:
1. provides tangible support for immigrants, refugees, and others who are at risk, and 2. educates our residents about the needs and contributions of immigrants, refugees, and other minorities, especially those who are being vilified today.
Community ID Card Program
This program provides verifiable ID cards for those who need one. While it isn't a government ID, it will be helpful for people seeking City or County services, to obtain certain prescription drugs, in dealing with law enforcement, to get library cards and for other uses.
Upcoming ID Card Drives
In response to COVID-19 - All Charlottesville Area Community ID Program events are canceled until further notice. Read More.
UPDATE ON THE ID PROGRAM
Since our start in March 2019, we've issued 496 IDs.
Several local organizations have agreed to give card holders free or reduced admission to their programs. These include:
Brooks Family Y
Virginia Discovery Museum
The Paramount (for certain movies and performances)
The VA Film Festival
We recently held an ID drive after Sunday church services in a local church. Many people who already have a government ID signed up for our ID card. We'll do this at other places of worship in the coming months.
We are starting to give our applicants information on a number of other programs and services at our ID drives, including: local English as a second language services, the 2020 Census, and health services that accept our ID.
UVA's Latino Health Initiative will provide health screening and related services at one of our upcoming ID drives.
"Know Your Neighbor." This video, created by local filmmaker Aaron Farrington, includes interviews with several local immigrants and refugees who tell their stories - where they came from, why they felt compelled to leave their homelands, the challenges and opportunities they found since coming here. The film had its premier during Welcoming Week 2018, and was screened at the 2018 Virginia Film Festival. We may create short versions for school uses.
ID card program. According to one estimate, 11% of American citizens have no ID card, and large numbers of non-citizens lack IDs as well. Many communities are developing their own verifiable IDs for those needing them, including some immigrants, the homeless, people returning from prison, elderly who no longer drive. The experience thus far is very positive - over 12,500 people in N. Carolina have received such cards, as have people in S. Carolina, Indiana, Ohio among other states.
ID cards are needed to open a bank account and take out loans, buy certain prescription drugs, check into a hotel, apply for certain municipal and health services. These cards also give people a sense of belonging. And they can create greater trust between immigrant groups and law enforcement, and that trust improves community safety. Two local churches are sponsoring our ID card program, which launched in March, 2019.
Educational programs. We develop programs that give people information about, and insights into the lives of immigrants and refugees: the contributions they make to our community, the challenges they face when they arrive here, who is at risk for deportation, important laws, and the like. Our first program was "Dreaming America," a play performed by Charlottesville High School students. The play is based on a book of the same title, which contains poems written by teenagers from South America who are currently being held in detention in Virginia.
Welcoming Week. This annual celebration of our community's diverse residents takes place each September. It includes over 20 events that include films, health screenings, celebrations of various cultures, talks panel discussions and more. We publicize all events on our website and in other ways. We also offer some Welcoming Week events of our own.
Political advocacy. We aren't a partisan organization. That said, we are posting information on our Facebook page about important political and other matters that affect the groups we support, to educate people and encourage them to take action on pressing issues. We'll make statements as a task force when we have consensus on an issue.
Russ Linden, Task Force Chair
WHO WE ARE
WELCOMING GREATER CHARLOTTESVILLE
What Cardholders Say About the ID
"I was able to get my glasses prescription filled with it."
"The card allowed me to open up a Comcast account and get cable and internet set-up in my home."
"My new landlord was able to verify who I was and allowed me to sign my lease."
"I enrolled my children in school."
"The card helps me feel accepted by the community. I didn't feel that way before."
"I needed to get a medical appointment for my daughter, which required an ID. This was all I had, and they accepted it."