A project of the Center for Community Change

Prince William County Passes Law to Harm Immigrant Communities

“They’re going to pull me over just for being Hispanic.”

Prince William County has taken one step further into the abyss of anti-immigrant legislation that promises to alienate and harm our valued immigrant communities. As hallways overflowed with the largest turnout for a city council vote in 20 years, the local government has made the decision to target the very community that supports so much of the social, economic and cultural growth of their community.

This news item probably is already old news to many of you by now, considering it has received considerable national attention. The main questoin for advocates and community members is where do we go from here.

Immigrants rights advocates were successful in making the bill much less harmful than it could have been, “The previous resolution would have required officers to check the residency status of anyone who breaks a law, no matter how minor. The measure approved yesterday directs officers to check the status of anyone in police custody who they suspect is an illegal immigrant.”

Though it took a lot of hardwork to get the resolution to this point, while cutting out many other harmful measures- is that enough? Perhaps it is time that we take a harder line. No resolutions that unfairly and inhumanely hurt our immigrant communities can be tolerated. Public safety and communal health are not promoted by divisive, scapegoting legilsation that puts hard-working imigrant communities in the crossfire.

I’ve heard many folks say that these types of bills don’t target immigrants- they target “illegal immigrants”. So no one else is hurt by this legislation.

That’s like saying that the bombing of Hiroshima only hurt did damage to the city limits in one moment in time. Like a bomb, anti-immigrant legislation targting one sector of the immigrant community effects EVERYONE and sends shockwaves through not only the immigrant community but the entire region.

Racial profiling, hate speech, and a general atmosphere of fear permeates many of the towns that have enacted anti-immigrant legislation. We’ve spoken to Legal permanent residents who live in conintued fear of what their local government or community could do next to marginalize and target them. We’ve spoken with long-time Latino residents of Hazelton who became tarets of never before seen hatred and racist attacks in their own neighborhoods. Businesses that once brought much needed revenue and vitality to communities are shut down and everyone, immigrant and non suffers from this fall out.

The question remains, when we allow even watered down versions of anti-immigrant legislation, where do we go from here?

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