By Ada Romano
Legislation allowing undocumented immigrants to possess a driver’s license advanced in the Senate this past week.
Senate Bill 34, introduced by Sen. Scott Surovell, D-Fairfax, would allow immigrants to obtain a driver’s license regardless of legal status. The applicant must prove they don’t have a social security or individual taxpayer identification number and submit a certified statement that their information is true. The bill had several amendments this legislative session.
House Bill 1211 introduced by Del. Kathy Tran, D-Fairfax, is an identical bill that also extends these rights to undocumented immigrants. Tran introduced a similar bill that died in subcommittee last year. If approved, the bills will go into effect Jan. 1, 2021.
Nayeli Montes said she came to the United States illegally from Mexico in 2005 for a chance at a better life. She worked 12-hour shifts at a restaurant back home earning the equivalent of $6.50 a day. Today, Montes is involved with the Virginia Coalition for Immigrant Rights, which lobbies lawmakers for immigrant rights.
Driver’s licenses can be required to obtain certain resources such as credit cards and car insurance. Currently, 13 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico provide driver’s licenses for undocumented immigrants. VACIR believes providing driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants will make roads safer because drivers will be educated, trained and tested. The three states that adopted these measures the earliest experienced a 30% decrease in traffic fatalities, compared to a nationwide 20 percent drop, according to The Commonwealth Institute for Fiscal Analysis, which studies issues affecting low-income residents.
The coalition said the bill will increase state revenue through vehicle registration, license plate fees, and title fees. According to The Commonwealth Institute, allowing undocumented immigrants to drive would produce between $11 million and $18 million in revenue from car registration fees, title fees, and license plate fees. The institute estimated that between 124,500 and 160,800 drivers would seek Virginia licenses within the first two years if immigration status was not a factor.
Humberto Rodriguez, the owner of a painting company and an immigrant from Mexico, said he came to the U.S. for better opportunities for him and his family. He said his son is the only person in his household who can legally drive and he would like for this privilege to be extended to all immigrants. His son is a Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals recipient. DACA allows undocumented children who entered the U.S. before they turned 16 to work, attend college or university and obtain a driver’s license.
“I just want to make it clear that we came here to make a living for ourselves,” Rodriguez said. “Undocumented immigrants will go out and work no matter the weather conditions and we do our work with dignity.”
The House bill has received more support this year than last year, but one representative worries it may misrepresent an immigrant’s legal status.
Del. Terry L. Austin, R-Botetourt, said he voted against the House bill because the driver’s license that would be issued to an undocumented immigrant is identical to a citizen’s driver’s license and could misrepresent the legal status of an immigrant.
“I think we need to be very careful with this,” Austin said. “This could misrepresent an individual’s identity and could compromise safety in the United States.”
Undocumented immigrants also have concerns. They worry the DMV could potentially release their information to the federal government and that they could get arrested or deported. However, both bills state that an individual’s name won’t be released unless ordered by a court. Additionally, no photograph would be released to law enforcement or federal authorities unless a name or sufficient evidence was presented; the commissioner could still decline to release the photograph.
Tran also sponsored HB 1700 which limits the release of information such as proof documents, photographs of an individual and signatures from the DMV to government agencies. Additionally, the bill would prohibit a federal immigration law enforcement agency from accessing information stored by the DMV without a court order or warrant. A subcommittee shelved that bill Tuesday.
The fate of HB 1211 hasn’t been determined. The bill has been shuffled among House panels, with two recommendations, and is currently in an Appropriations subcommittee that meets next week.
RVA Legends — W. O. Burton
A look into the history of Richmond places that are no longer part of our landscape.
- 110 Foushee Street (Office)
Fifteenth and Hull Streets (Brick Works)
A brickmaker who helped build Masonic Temple.
W. O. Burton, contractor and builder and manufacturer of brick, at 110 Foushee street, has been engaged in that line for the last ten years. He has a place on Foushee street, 150 feet square, covered by his shops and his office, which are built of brick, and has his brick-yards in Manchester.
He has from 120 to 150 hands employed, according to the state of trade, and he does a business in the city and its field of perhaps $150,000 a year.
Some of the finest structures in Richmond were built by him, among others, the new Masonic Temple here, one of the handsomest buildings of the South;
Grace Street Baptist Church, Lombardy Street School, the Davis Shoe Factory and the residences of Thomas Stagg and George B. McAdams. The Masonic Temple cost, complete, $150,000; Grace Street Church, $50,000; and these are illustrations of the character of contracts he takes.
He was recently awarded the contract to build the new State Library building, shown on page 25 of this work, and he is now completing the new Chamber of Commerce building here, which is to cost, perhaps, $150,000.
Burton’s Brick Works, corner Fifteenth and Hull streets, Manchester, have a capacity of 50,000 brick a day. Their annual production is about 3,000,000 brick, and they usually carry in stock about 1,000,000. Mr. W. O. Burton, the proprietor — the same whose other affairs have just been described — is one of the best known Richmond builders and contractors.
The city directories list Burton as living in Manchester in 1877, and later 912 West Clay Street. Richmond, Virginia, the City on the James, 1893 edition, has a picture of his residence which it identifies as “Grove Road, Western Suburbs,” however precisely none of the available city directories identify him at such a location.
He has an office in the city, as has been said, at the corner of Foushee and Canal streets, and he has built, among other large structures here, the Masonic Temple, Grace Street Baptist Church, and the “third tier” of the State Penitentiary. His brick yards in Manchester cover seven acres. He uses machinery and turns out both pressed and common brick. He employs about twelve teams, and more than a hundred hands. [RVCJ93]
The natural conclusion is that they really meant Grove Avenue, but the setting depicted above looks pretty rural, with room enough for a windmill. The house also seems a bit out of character for a typical Fan or Museum District abode.
Kudos to anyone who can identify this location!
(W. O. Burton is part of the Atlas RVA! Project)
- [RVCJ93] Richmond, Virginia: The City on the James: The Book of Its Chamber of Commerce and Principal Business Interests. G. W. Engelhardt. 1893.
RVA Legends is a regular series
appearing on rocket werks – check it out!
1,500 From-scratch Biscuits Fueling the Frontlines
The “Give a Biscuit” project by Salt & Forge donated 1,500 biscuits day and night shifts to area hospitals, emergency rooms, ICUs, and COVID units.
Salt & Forge brought some joy — and biscuits — to area hospitals during Nurses’ Week (May 6-12). Pulling together resources and connections, Salt & Forge was able to secure funding to prepare and deliver over 1,500 biscuits.
The “Give a Biscuit” project was born out of necessity. How could the restaurant keep its staff employed while closures across the country put many on unemployment? How could the restaurant support their community and uplift those in the trenches, responsible for caring for Richmond’s vulnerable? This project was an answer for both.
The “Give a Biscuit” project was made possible by donations from SAVE RVA Restaurants, Richmond Academy of Medicine, FLAG RVA, and the generosity of Salt & Forge customers. Customers had the option to add a $5 “Give a Biscuit” to their orders, thus supplying one biscuit to a frontline healthcare worker.
With the funds, Salt & Forge was able to deliver fresh-made biscuits to both day and night shifts in all area hospitals, emergency rooms, ICUs, and COVID units including HCA, Bon Secours, VCU Health, and McGuire Veterans Hospital.
The “Give a Biscuit” project is still in operation. David Hahn, owner, says, “as long as there are healthcare workers putting themselves on the frontline every day, we are going to feed them.” They have already received commitments from other groups to help feed caregivers beyond Nurses Week.
Wayback RVA — Main Office of the Negro Development and Exposition Co. U. S. A.
A Then & Now photo essay of Richmond places from around the area.
Main Office of the Negro Development
and Exposition Co. U. S. A.
also Clothing and Gents Furnishings
Mr. I. J. Miller, Proprietor
528 East Broad Street
Just down the street from Richmond Dyeing, Scouring and Carpet Cleaning Works!
Giles Beecher Jackson was the first black attorney certified to practice law before the Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals. With Daniel Webster Davis he co-authored a book entitled The Industrial History of the Negro Race of the United States, where he mentions I. J. Miller gent’s furnishing store, with a stock of $10,000.
He also created the Negro Development and Exposition Company, which secured $150,000 to produce the Negro Building, exhibitions by and about blacks, for the 1907 Jamestown Tercentennial. That he was unsuccessful in converting this into a National Museum for Colored People, it was nevertheless one of the earliest attempts for a dedicated museum of this kind. An amazing story you can read here.
- Sanborn Fire Insurance Map from Richmond (1905) — Plate 3.
- Souvenir Views Negro Enterprises and Residences, Richmond, Va. D. A. Ferguson & Co. 1907.
- An Early Attempt to Build a “National Museum for Colored People”. Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention and Innovation. September 2016.
- 528 East Broad Street.
(Main Office of the Negro Development and Exposition Co. U. S. A. is part of the Atlas RVA! Project)