Arlington’s new citizenship assistance fund started with a $7,000 donation from a retiree who figured immigrants who worked so hard to take the federal citizenship test might need help with the $725 application fee.
Then, as other residents heard about it, they began to pitch in, too.
Within months, as President Trump’s crackdown on undocumented immigrants made headlines and spawned outrage in blue states across the country, Arlington County accumulated another $40,000 in donations.
But only four people have applied for the funds, and employees of the county’s human services department became “a little nervous about how long it will take to use it up,” said County Board chair Katie Cristol (D).
So Cristol is asking others who are inclined to donate to give their money to organizations that help immigrants: the Legal Aid Justice Center, Legal Aid Services of Northern Virginia, Just Neighbors, Ayuda, or Northern Virginia Family Service.
Cristol revealed the boom in donations on the little-watched “County Board Wrap-up” report, about 25 minutes into a 30-minute YouTube video.
County Board member Libby Garvey (D), who also appeared on the report, said the fund is “a small way to push back and show what our values are, make people welcome and strengthen our community.”
There has been an outpouring of support for immigrants this year, including more than $20 million raised on Facebook for families separated at the border, a loose network of citizens who drove parents of separated families cross-country to reunite with their children, and those who support with volunteer hours or donations the shelters that take in immigrants after they are released from federal custody.
Arlington, a liberal enclave that is one of the most wealthy communities in the nation, has issued statements of support to the immigrant community, which makes up about 13 percent of its population.
The county government gave $100,000 to the Legal Aid Justice Center in 2017 and 2018, and voted this month to support a legal effort to block the U.S. Commerce Department from adding a question about citizenship to the 2020 Census.
“So many Arlingtonians are so affected by what we see in the news recently, especially about family separation, that people are looking for some affirmative way to show they value their immigrant and new American neighbors,” Cristol said in an interview Wednesday.