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Governor Northam vetoes legislation imposing unnecessary requirements on localities regarding Federal Immigration Law Enforcement

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RICHMOND—Governor Northam today, March 19th,  vetoed House Bill 2270, which would impose an unnecessary requirement upon localities regarding the enforcement of federal immigration laws. The Governor’s veto statement is below.

Summary of bill: Release of certain incarcerated aliens from jail; notice to Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Requires that the sheriff, jail superintendent, or other official in charge of a local correctional facility or a regional jail in which an alien is incarcerated shall notify U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement of the release or discharge of the alien forthwith as soon as the release date is known.

March 19, 2019

Pursuant to Article V, Section 6, of the Constitution of Virginia, I veto House Bill 2270, which imposes an unnecessary requirement upon localities regarding the enforcement of federal immigration laws.

Local and regional correctional facilities have, and should retain, discretion to determine how they choose to engage with federal immigration agencies. This legislation impedes decision-making by administrators of these facilities by eliminating that discretion.

Public safety agencies across the Commonwealth have a long tradition of engaging in community policing strategies, and many have recognized how important it is to develop a relationship with immigrant communities in order to keep all of those who live within the locality safe. The safety of our communities requires that all people, whether they are documented or not, feel comfortable, supported and protected by our public safety agencies.

There are many actions we can take to support public safety and keep Virginians safe. Eliminating local discretion and impeding local decision-making are not appropriate options. Were it to become law, this bill would send a clear message to people across the Commonwealth that our public safety agencies are to be feared and avoided rather than trusted and engaged.

Accordingly, I veto this bill.
Sincerely,
Ralph S. Northam

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Governor Northam to remove Robert E. Lee statue in Richmond

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Governor Ralph Northam today, June 4, 2020, announced plans to remove the statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee located on Monument Avenue in Richmond, Virginia. The briefing today started with comments from Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney, beginning with the words, “It’s time.”

The Governor directed the Department of General Services to safely remove the statue from its pedestal and house it in storage until an appropriate location is determined.

Speakers joining the Governor at today’s announcement include City of Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney, Reverend Robert W. Lee IV, Robert Johns, Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax, Attorney General Mark Herring, and Zyahna Bryant.

Governor Northam is acting under his executive authority and Section § 2.2-2402 of the Code of Virginia, which provides the Governor the sole authority to approve the removal of a work of art owned by the Commonwealth upon submission of a plan to do so. The Robert E. Lee monument was erected for and is owned by the Commonwealth of Virginia and is considered a work of art pursuant to Section 2.2-2401 of the Code of Virginia.


The Governor’s remarks as prepared for delivery are below:

Good morning, everyone.

I want to thank everyone watching from around Virginia and around the country, and I want to thank the many guests who have joined us as we chart a new course in Virginia’s history.

Today, we’re here to be honest about our past and talk about our future.

I’m no historian, but I strongly believe that we have to confront where we’ve been, in order to shape where we’re going.

And in Virginia, for more than 400 years, we have set high ideals about freedom and equality, but we have fallen short of them.

Some of America’s most hopeful and forward-looking moments happened in this Commonwealth and in this capital city. When Americans first dreamed of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness—they dreamed here in the Commonwealth.

Virginia adopted a Declaration of Rights before the United States declared independence. It said that all are “equally free and independent and have certain inherent rights.” It specifically called out freedom of the press and freedom of religion.

And in a church on a hill 15 blocks from here, Virginia’s first elected Governor helped launch the American Revolution when he cried, “Give me liberty, or give me death!” That was Patrick Henry, and I now have the job that he once held—72 governors later.

These are our greatest legacies as Americans. But there’s a whole lot more to the story, because those inspiring words and high ideals did not apply to everyone, not then and not now.

Because at the bottom of that same hill, one of the country’s largest slave-trading markets was coming to life. A place where Virginians would sell men, women, and children for profit. Americans buying and selling other Americans.

This is just as much the American story, and it’s one that we are only just now beginning to tell more fully.

Through 400 years of American history, starting with the enslavement of Africans, through the Civil War, through Jim Crow, and Massive Resistance, and mass incarceration, black oppression has always existed in this country, just in different forms.

The legacy of racism continues not just in isolated incidents like we saw in Minneapolis a few days ago—and I want to acknowledge that our country will honor the life of George Floyd in a memorial service in about three hours.

The legacy of racism also continues as part of a system that touches every person and every aspect of our lives, whether we know it or not. But hearts are in different places, and not everyone can see it—or they don’t want to see it.

When I used to teach ambitious young doctors, I would tell them, “The eyes can’t see what the mind doesn’t know.” That’s true for all of us.

So, it’s time to acknowledge the reality of institutional racism, even if you can’t see it. Public policies have kept this reality in place for a long time. That’s why we’ve been working so hard to reform criminal justice laws, expand health care access, make it easier to vote, and so much more.

But symbols matter too, and Virginia has never been willing to deal with symbols. Until now.

Today, Virginia is home to more Confederate commemorations than any other state. That’s true because generations ago, Virginia made the decision not to celebrate unity, but to honor the cause of division. You’ll see this if you look around Virginia and our capital city.

The statue of Robert E. Lee is the most prominent. Lee himself didn’t want a monument, but Virginia built one any way. Lee once said, “I think it is wiser not to keep open the sores of war, but to follow the examples of those nations who endeavored to obliterate the marks of civil strife, to commit to oblivion the feelings engendered.” Those are wise words indeed.

So, what happened? Virginia leaders said, we know better.

Instead of choosing to heal the wounds of the American civil war, they chose to keep them on display. They launched a new campaign to undo the results of the Civil War by other means.

They needed a symbol to shore up the cause. And it’s quite a symbol. The Lee statue was built in France, and when it arrived by boat on the James River docks, it took 10,000 citizens—and a whole lot of rope to haul three large crates out into the tobacco field where it would be installed. Some business people put it out in the field, so they could eventually build a housing development around it, and make money. It worked.

This happened in May 1890, twenty years after Lee died and a generation after the Civil War ended. 150,000 people came out when the statue was unveiled. But from the beginning, there was no secret about what the statue meant. Almost every one of those 150,000 people waved Confederate flags that day.

John Mitchell was the editor of the Black newspaper, the Richmond Planet, at the time. He wrote, “The emblem of the union had been left behind—a glorification of the lost cause was everywhere.” It was a big day, and more big days followed throughout the old south. And as the statues went up, so did lots of new laws. It was all part of the same campaign.

Here’s just one example: New laws limited the right to vote. In the years after the Civil War, more than 100,000 African American men were registered to vote in Virginia. But once this campaign took off, that number plummeted by 90 percent, to barely 10,000.

That worked too. Because the people who wrote these laws knew what they were doing. They wrote other new laws to say that once a statue goes up, it can never come down. They wanted the statues to remain forever—they needed the statues to stay forever, because they helped keep the system in place. That also worked. Those laws ruled for more than a century.

But voting matters, and elections matter, and laws can be changed. And this year, we changed them. This year, I proposed legislation to let cities and counties decide what to do with monuments in their communities—take them down, move them somewhere else, or add additional context.

That law takes effect in four weeks, and then local communities will decide. I know Richmond is going to do the right thing.

But the Lee statue is unique. It’s different from every other statue in Virginia—both in size and in legal status.

You see, the state owns it, unlike most other statues. That was another part of the plan to keep it up forever. It sits on a 100-foot circle of land, a state-owned island, surrounded by the City of Richmond.

The whole thing is six stories tall. It towers over homes, businesses, and everyone who lives in Richmond—from elegant Monument Avenue to the public housing neighborhood of Gilpin Court. The statue itself weighs 12 tons, and it sits atop a large pedestal. A pedestal is a place of honor. We put things on pedestals when we want people to look up.

Think about the message this sends to people coming from around the world to visit the capital city of one of the largest states in the country. Or to young children. What do you say when a six-year-old African American little girl looks you in the eye, and says: What does this big statue mean? Why is it here?

When a young child looks up and sees something that big and prominent, she knows that it’s important. And when it’s the biggest thing around, it sends a clear message: This is what we value the most. But that’s just not true anymore.

In Virginia, we no longer preach a false version of history. One that pretends the Civil War was about “state rights” and not the evils of slavery. No one believes that any longer.

And in 2020, we can no longer honor a system that was based on the buying and selling of enslaved people. In 2020!

I want us all to tell the little girl the truth. Yes, that statue has been there for a long time. But it was wrong then, and it is wrong now.

So, we’re taking it down.

Now, I know some will protest. Some will say, Lee was an honorable man. I know many people will be angry.

But my friends, I believe in a Virginia that studies its past in an honest way. I believe that when we learn more, we can do more. And I believe that when we learn more—when we take that honest look at our past—we must do more than just talk about the future.

We must take action. So, I am directing the Department of General Services to remove the statue of Robert E. Lee as soon as possible. It will go into storage, and we will work with the community to determine its future.

Before we turn to the next speakers, I want to acknowledge all the elected officials, scholars, members of our advisory boards, and other guests who here.

In particular, I want to acknowledge members of the family of Barbara Johns: Mr. Robert Johns and his grandson Mr. Tyrone Mayer, Jr. You all know their family’s story.

In 1951, a 16-year-old girl, Barbara Johns, stood up and led a protest—a student strike against substandard conditions at Robert Russa Moton High School in Prince Edward County. She pushed and pushed, and two great American attorneys took up her cause. Oliver Hill and Spottswood Robinson filed suit, next door, in the federal courthouse at the bottom of the hill. That case became Brown v. Board of Education, and it eventually threw out segregated schools in the United States of America.

That is how you make change—you push on the outside, and you push on the inside too.

We’ll hear in just a moment from a few of the people who are making change happen.

My friends, I believe in a Virginia that studies its past in an honest way. I believe in a Virginia that learns lessons from the past. And we all know our country needs that example right now.

America is once again looking to Virginia to lead. But make no mistake—removing a symbol is important, but it’s only a step.

It doesn’t mean problems are solved. We still need change in this country. We need healing most of all. But symbols do matter.

My friends, we all know it’s time. And history will prove that.

Now, I would like to introduce the Reverend Robert W. Lee IV. We’ve been talking about his great-great-grandfather.

More from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Martin Falbisoner / CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)

The Robert E. Lee Monument was the first and is the largest of Monument Avenue’s monuments in Richmond, Virginia. In 1876 the Lee Monument Association commissioned a lithograph of a painting by Adalbert Volck. The lithograph, depicting Robert E. Lee on his horse, was the basis for the bronze statue created by French sculptor Antonin Mercié. It was noted in the National Register of Historic Places that “the horse is not a representation of Lee’s famous mount Traveller. The sculptor did not find the size of the actual horse to be in keeping with the overall composition and therefore created an ideal mount with the necessary requirements.”[3] The cornerstone was placed on October 27, 1887. The statue was cast in several pieces separately and then the assembled statue was displayed in Paris before it was shipped to Richmond, where it arrived by rail on May 4.[4] Newspaper accounts indicate that 10,000 people helped pull four wagons with the pieces of the monument. The completed statue was unveiled on May 29, 1890. The statue serves as a traffic circle at the intersection of Monument Avenue and Allen Avenue (named after Otway Allen, the developer who donated the land to the association). Lee stands 14 feet (4.3 m) high atop his horse and the entire statue is 60 feet (18 m) tall standing on a stone base.[5][6]

The site for the statue originally was offered in 1886. Over some opposition, the offer was accepted and later withdrawn when opponents complained that the $20,000 for the Lee Monument was inappropriate because the site was outside the city limit.[citation needed] Richmond City annexed the land in 1892, but bad times economically caused the Lee Monument to stand alone for several years in the middle of a tobacco field before development resumed in the early 1900s.[5]

The Lee Monument is a focal point for Richmond. (Most popular online maps depict the “Lee Circle” as the center of Richmond, although the United States Post Office uses the intersection of North and South Foushee Street where it intersects with East and West Main St as 0 axis Point of all address in the Richmond region, hence the true address center of Richmond. The Virginia Department of Transportation and the Virginia State Police use the state Capitol building as its center.) In 1992, the iron fence around the monument was removed, in part because drivers unfamiliar with traffic circles would run into the fence from time to time and force costly repairs. When the fences came down, the stone base became a popular sunbathing spot.[7] In December 2006, the state completed an extensive cleaning and repair of the monument.

It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2007.[1] It is located in the Monument Avenue Historic District.

Visit the website here to find out more about the Monument Avenue Historic District in Richmond.

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Governor Northam authorizes City of Hampton to implement temporary curfew

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Governor Ralph Northam today, June 3, 2020, granted a request from local leaders in the City of Hampton to implement a temporary curfew due to civil unrest. This follows an emergency declaration signed by the Governor on May 31 to assist localities in responding to escalating violence across the Commonwealth. Earlier this week, the Governor granted authorization to officials in the cities of Richmond and Virginia Beach to extend curfews.

The City of Hampton is authorized to implement a curfew between the hours of 8:00 PM and 6:00 AM from Wednesday, June 3, 2020, through Saturday, June 6, 2020. While the curfew is in effect, people must remain in their homes and may only leave to seek emergency services or travel to and from home, work, or places of worship.

The full text of amended Executive Order Sixty-Four can be found here.

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Governor Northam announces Phase Two guidelines to further ease public health restrictions

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Governor Ralph Northam on June 2, 2020, signed Executive Order Sixty-Five and presented the second phase of the “Forward Virginia” plan to continue safely and gradually easing public health restrictions while containing the spread of COVID-19. The Governor also amended Executive Order Sixty-One directing Northern Virginia and the City of Richmond to remain in Phase One.

Most of Virginia is expected to enter Phase Two on Friday, June 5, as key statewide health metrics continue to show positive signs. Virginia’s hospital bed capacity remains stable, the percentage of people hospitalized with a positive or pending COVID-19 test is trending downward, no hospitals are reporting PPE shortages, and the percent of positive tests continue to trend downward as testing increases. The Governor and Virginia public health officials will continue to evaluate data based on the indicators laid out in April.

“Because of our collective efforts, Virginia has made tremendous progress in fighting this virus and saved lives,” said Governor Northam. “Please continue to wear a face covering, maintain physical distance, and stay home if you are high-risk or experience COVID-19 symptoms. Virginians have all sacrificed to help contain the spread of this disease, and we must remain vigilant as we take steps to slowly lift restrictions in our Commonwealth.”

Executive Order Sixty-Five modifies public health guidance in Executive Order Sixty-One and Sixty-Two and establishes guidelines for Phase Two. Northern Virginia and the City of Richmond entered Phase One on Friday, May 29, and will remain in Phase One to allow for additional monitoring of health data. Accomack County delayed reopening due to outbreaks in poultry plants, which have largely been controlled through rigorous testing. Accomack County will move to Phase Two with the rest of the Commonwealth, on Friday, June 5.

Under Phase Two, the Commonwealth will maintain a Safer at Home strategy with continued recommendations for social distancing, teleworking, and requiring individuals to wear face coverings in indoor public settings. The maximum number of individuals permitted in a social gathering will increase from 10 to 50 people. All businesses should still adhere to physical distancing guidelines, frequently clean and sanitize high contact surfaces, and continue enhanced workplace safety measures.

Restaurant and beverage establishments may offer indoor dining at 50 percent occupancy, fitness centers may open indoor areas at 30 percent occupancy, and certain recreation and entertainment venues without shared equipment may open with restrictions. These venues include museums, zoos, aquariums, botanical gardens, and outdoor concert, sporting, and performing arts venues. Swimming pools may also expand operations to both indoor and outdoor exercise, diving, and swim instruction.

The current guidelines for religious services, non-essential retail, and personal grooming services will largely remain the same in Phase Two. Overnight summer camps, most indoor entertainment venues, amusement parks, fairs, and carnivals will also remain closed in Phase Two.

Phase Two guidelines for specific sectors can be found here.

Phase One guidelines sectors are available here.

Visit virginia.gov/coronavirus/forwardvirginia for more information and answers to frequently asked questions.

The full text of Executive Order Sixty-Five and Order of Public Health Emergency Six is available here.

The full text of amended Executive Order Sixty-One can be found here.

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Governor Northam COVID-19 update briefing – June 2, 2020; addresses protest, Phase 2 starts Friday

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Governor Northam joins the Virginia Emergency Support Team to share the latest updates on the COVID-19 response. Here are the highlights:

The Governor began the June 2 briefing by discussing the protests across Virginia. His message to protesters is “I hear you,” and that he pledges to stand with them. Several spoke with the Governor including 70th District Del. Delores McQuinn, Shirley Ginwright with the Virginia African American Advisory Board, and Jim Bibbs, chief human resources officer for the Virginia Port Authority.

The Governor announced most of the state can move into Phase Two of reopening the state this Friday, June 5. He said Northern Virginia, Richmond, and Accomack County will stay in Phase One.

Here are some changes under Phase Two:

  • Restaurants can have indoor seating at 50 percent capacity
  • Gyms can have indoor classes/ workouts at 30 percent capacity
  • Pools can open with some restrictions
  • Museums/zoos can open with restrictions
  • Recreational sports allowed but there can be no shared equipment
  • Gatherings limited to 50 people rather than 10
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Governor Northam declares State of Emergency and authorizes assistance to localities; curfew in the City of Richmond

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Governor Ralph Northam today, May 31, 2020, declared a state of emergency and authorized assistance to localities in response to escalating violence across the Commonwealth. The Governor granted a request from Mayor Levar Stoney to extend a curfew in the City of Richmond.

“This emergency declaration will provide the necessary support to localities as they work to keep our communities safe, said Governor Northam. “There are many voices speaking out for justice and healing across the United States and in our Commonwealth, but others are exploiting this pain and inciting violence.”

A state of emergency allows the Commonwealth to mobilize resources, including the Virginia National Guard, and preposition people and equipment to assist localities in their efforts to deescalate violent protests and protect public safety.

The declaration allocates $350,000 for state and local governments and state response and recovery operations authorized and coordinated through the Virginia Department of Emergency Management.

The order extends a curfew in the City of Richmond between the hours of 8:00 PM and 6:00 AM from Sunday, May 31, 2020, through Wednesday, June 3, 2020. While the curfew is in effect, people must remain in their homes and may only leave to seek emergency services or travel to and from home, work, or places of worship.

The full text of the emergency declaration can be found here.

Governor Ralph Northam also issued the following statement about protests in the City of Richmond.

“I acknowledge each of the voices crying out for justice and healing across the United States and in our Commonwealth. I affirm the deep concerns from the black community.

“I hear you. I know your pain is real. We have all seen too many people harassed, abused, and killed by law enforcement officers, in too many places, for too long—just for being black. I also know that others are exploiting this pain and are now causing violence.

“I spoke with Mayor Levar Stoney throughout the night; pursuant to the Mayor’s requests, I have authorized a curfew in Richmond and placed the Virginia National Guard on alert. They stand ready to assist in protecting our residents, businesses, especially small and black-owned businesses, and the capital city.

“As Governor of Virginia, I call on all Virginians to join together and build a renewed commitment to working for justice and fair treatment.”

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Governor Northam COVID-19 update briefing – May 28, 2020; Phase 2 could start June 5th

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Governor Northam joins the Virginia Emergency Support Team to share the latest updates on the COVID-19 response. Here are the highlights:

The Governor said that earliest the state could enter Phase Two would be Friday, June 5. Phase Two would look like this: stay at home for vulnerable populations, no social gatherings of more than 50 individuals, continued social distancing, continued teleworking, face coverings in public, and further easing business limitations.

He also mentioned the requirement to wear face masks starting Friday, May 29, people will be required to wear masks inside retail shops, restaurants, personal care, and grooming establishments, places people congregate, government buildings, and public transportation.

Exceptions will be allowed, including while eating or drinking, exercising, those with trouble breathing or health issues, and children under age 10. The governor stated enforcement would be done through the Virginia Department of Health, not by local Sheriff or Police.

Here’s the latest briefing:

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