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Vol. 71/No. 35      September 24, 2007

(front page)
Workers in Virginia protest
local cop immigration checks
Yadira Martínez
Five thousand at September 2 rally call on Prince William County Board of Supervisors to rescind a resolution empowering local cops to enforce federal immigration laws.

WOODBRIDGE, Virginia—More than 5,000 people marched here September 2 to demand the Prince William County Board of Supervisors rescind a resolution giving county police the power to check the immigration status of those they arrest.

The march came at the end of a weeklong boycott of non-immigrant businesses in the county. Three mass meetings in late July, attended by 3,500 workers total, called the march and boycott. Workers at these meetings also voted to carry out a county-wide work stoppage October 9.

“We always come to the marches,” said Reina Lopez, a cleaner originally from El Salvador who was with her husband, Martín, a construction worker originally from Mexico. “All we want is to be able to work in peace.”

“What I don’t like is that they are trying to deny basic rights to our children, the right to health services, the right to an education,” said Martín.

Many workers brought their families to the march. Most came from Manassas and Woodbridge, both in Prince William County. They were joined by others from Arlington, Alexandria, Charlottesville, and Washington, D.C. About 20 workers from Culpeper carried a banner that read “Culpeper supports the Hispanic Community of Prince William.” Culpeper County passed a resolution August 8 affirming English as the official language of county business.

“This resolution is unjust and racist,” said Noe Ventura, a truck driver for a concrete company. “We had a discussion at my job about the strike. Many of us have decided not to work. Others are working, but they still support us in their hearts.”

With the exception of one worker who feared retaliation from her employer, workers interviewed by this reporter unanimously supported the October 9 strike call.

A rally after the march featured speeches by activists and religious leaders and a mariachi concert.

“They have pushed us against the wall without any options,” said Ricardo Juárez, a leader of the immigrant rights group Mexicanos sin Fronteras. “Will we hide?”

“No!” shouted the crowd.

“Will we fight for our rights?”

“Yes!” was the response, followed by chants of “íSí se puede!” (“Yes we can!”)

Help Save Manassas, an anti-immigrant group affiliated with the rightist Minuteman Civil Defense Corps, held a press conference the next day.

“We’re going to continue hard on this course. We’re not backing down,” said Prince William County Board chairman Corey A. Stewart.

In a further indication of the growing polarization in the region, local media reported that the Ku Klux Klan had distributed leaflets in Manassas urging a ban on “all non-white immigration.”

Several Virginia counties have initiated studies to determine the effect of “illegal immigration” on the local economy. In addition to Culpeper, Stafford County declared English its official language. Loudon County passed an anti-immigrant resolution nearly identical to the Prince William resolution. A September 4 meeting of the Loudon County Board of Supervisors voted to study ways to cut government services to undocumented workers.

Prince William County Delegate Jeffrey M. Frederick called for all Virginia localities to introduce measures like those in Prince William and Loudon counties. He plans to introduce legislation at the state level to deny funding to local governments that do not check the immigration status of residents who receive public assistance, the Associated Press reported. Five law enforcement agencies in and around Prince William County announced an agreement called the “Prince William Criminal Alien Initiative” to increase cooperation between local officials and federal immigration authorities.
Related articles:
On immigration and unionization  
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