Immigration: The Battle for Manassas
Courtesy American News Project
The US Census Bureau estimates more than 10 million undocumented immigrants reside in the United States. In the absence of a national policy to stem the rise of illegals, some local governments are taking matters into their own hands. Virginia's Prince William County has implemented the "rule of law" policy which allows officers to arrest people suspected of being in the US illegally and expedite deportation. And citizens are up in arms.
MAN: We are all racists. Everyone in this room and everyone in the room out there is a racist. Some will let it show; others will in their heart, in their soul, in their mind know. Just because someone looks different and talks different doesn’t mean they’re lower.
TEXT ON SCREEN: The U.S. Census Bureau estimates more than 10 million undocumented immigrants reside in the United States. In the absence of a national policy to stem the rise of illegals, some local governments are taking matters into their own hands.
Prince William County, Virginia
GREG LETIECQ, FOUNDER, HELP SAVE MANASSAS: I guess the way you could put me is I’m just a patriotic American.
TEXT ON SCREEN: Greg Letiecq founded Help Save Manassas, which lobbied county officials to get tough with illegal immigrants.
LETIECQ (AT A MEETING): Thank you very much for coming out here tonight. Come on. Sit down. Have a seat with us. Okay.
LETIECQ: If the federal government had been living up to its responsibility to, you know, protect the safety and security of American citizens, there would be no need for Help Save Manassas or any organization. And because the federal government is basically viewed as absolutely useless in dealing with this issue for the most part, the only solution is is to start working at the state and local level, where government’s more responsible.
TEXT ON SCREEN: After months of letter writing, Letiecq’s group convinced the county to pass the "rule of law" resolution in 2007.
WOMAN: And I would willingly pay more taxes if that’s what it takes to rid our county of these criminals.
TEXT ON SCREEN: The "Rule of Law" resolution authorizes police to check a person’s legal status even during routine traffic violations. Undocumented persons who are arrested are handed to federal authorities and face immediate deportation. Since its passage, Prince William’s Latinos have gone into hiding or have fled. Many residents say life is getting back to normal.
LETIECQ: Everything indicates that the policy is making a big impact and it’s encouraging illegal aliens to leave. That saves us potentially millions and millions of dollars.
TEXT ON SCREEN: Ever since the "Rule of Law" policy was proposed, Prince William County has been debating how to pay for it. County businesses are currently facing a 23% property tax increase.
MAN: You all are really nailing it to the commercial people.
TEXT ON SCREEN: Meanwhile, the construction and farm industries are facing a labor shortage. Some businesses are considering relocating. Supporters of Latino immigrants have erected a protest wall in Manassas – calling it the "national capital of intolerance." County meetings are consumed by debates over the "Rule of Law."
WOMAN: Our military should all be brought back home. They should not be overseas when we don’t protect our borders.
WOMAN: You betrayed us by closing your ears and your offices to us while you opened them to hatred and fiscal irresponsibility. You betrayed more than just one person or ethnic group: you’ve betrayed democracy.
TEXT ON SCREEN: County chair Corey Stuart spearheaded the "Rule of Law" resolution.
MAN: You cannot give passes to illegal aliens that are violating our laws. Just because we haven’t found them hiding in the back of the closet yet doesn’t mean that if they pop out tomorrow they’re suddenly our brother. They’re foreign nationals with no right to be here.
TEXT ON SCREEN: Filmmaker Annabel Park has been documenting Letiecq and the county debate on YouTube.
ANNABEL PARK, FILMMAKER: Greg Letiecq is the president of Help Save Manassas and an influential blogger who seems to have the ear of the chairman. He’s someone who’s extremely good at spinning. He can articulate in theological terms justifications for his political beliefs and actions.
LETIECQ: We were founded on Christian principles. And, you know, the Bible instructs us to do certain things. And even for those that aren’t particularly religious, those values infuse our political system. So we need to ensure that we recognize our culture and our history and the founding principles of our country as we engage in this process. So understanding what they’ve had to go through, and saying, "Yes, you know, you’re causing all these problems, and you need to go home, but we still love you" just sounds responsible.
ILLEGAL RESIDENT "ROSA": I came to this country when I was nine. I crossed the border through Tijuana. My mother was physically and mentally abused, so she decided to just pack up one day and leave our dad. The last time that we hit rock bottom, I remember living on the side of the road, on the highway. And she had young children, four young children, crossing the border.
LETIECQ: Did she think it was illegal, what she was doing to her family? And is that a risk she was willing to take?
ROSA: The fact that you’re breaking a law by coming here without documents, I think that is the least worry they have on their mind. What they have on their mind is feeding their children and pursuing a better dream for their children. I don’t think Mr. Letiecq or anybody—how can you know what hunger is when you haven’t felt it? How can you know what danger is when you’ve never been in danger?
TEXT ON SCREEN: Rosa owns a home, a business and pays taxes. She has applied for legal residency three times. She and her husband are still illegal. Her children are US citizens.
LETIECQ: Assisting others in violating the law or essentially committing a sin is something that we’re not called on to do. You know, we’re trying to be compassionate, but at the same time we render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s, and we follow the scriptures of Romans 13 that say, you know, basically, you follow the law. You’re required to do so.
MAN: Whose law? God’s law or man’s? God’s law is about love. Man’s law is about fear. Fear of what? Undercutting jobs and wages, not learning English, a burden to taxpayers. God’s law says love your neighbor like yourself. Man’s rule of law says, "No papers? Get the heck out of here, scum."
INTERVIEWER: The people of Help Save Manassas or other places in the United States want tough arrests and deportation to be part of a new immigration policy. If you were deported, and your family, your kids, who are US citizens, were here, and you found yourself back in Guadalajara, would you risk your life again to come back?
ROSA: Because this is my home.
INTERVIEWER: This one person we’ve interviewed—we’re talking to lots of illegal immigrant families. Her name’s Rosa. She’s frightened to death—if she was detained or something—that she could be deported and separated from her children. And you’re a dad. How does that story make you feel?
LETIECQ: It makes me feel good that an illegal alien who’s broken the law thinks that the consequences for breaking the law are credible now. You know, I’m sorry. You could be the most wonderful person in the world, but if you’re an illegal alien, you’ve broken a law, and you need to be back home.
TEXT ON SCREEN: Many of the homes in Letiecq’s neighborhood are empty. Massive foreclosures have eroded Prince William’s tax base. The county intends to keep enforcing the "Rule of Law."
Please note that TRNN transcripts are typed from a recording of the program; The Real News Network cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.