Many citizens attended the Feb. 14 meeting of the Board of County Supervisors to express opposition to and disgust with the county’s new immigration act, saying it would divide families and negatively affect the community.
The board’s act is reminiscent of its strong anti-illegal immigration policy passed in 2007. Under the new policy the board would ask county police to work closely with ICE under the more responsive Trump administration.
Immigration Customs and Enforcement [ICE] would be able to inform Prince William Officers if undocumented individuals previously handed over to their agency were or were not deported. Police could then apprehend those individuals again and send them back over to ICE for deportation.
Approximately 50 people spoke against the policy at evening citizen’s time. More listened outside in the atrium, and many had participated in a public protest, holding signs opposing the new policy.
Residents who spoke feared the county returning to its 2007 statue. They noted that policy hurt families with different immigration statuses, and the entire Latino community. They said the policy would resonate far beyond undocumented immigrants who have committed crimes.
“It’s about real people who have jobs, homes and families,” said a woman dressed as the Statue of Liberty. “Mothers and fathers are being separated from their children.”
Speakers said effects would be felt in local economy, causing home and business foreclosures and loss of tax money. One man shared how his business closed after his clients felt unsafe.
Atif Qarni, who previously ran for state delegate as a Democrat, shared a story of how he was pulled over without cause, and police checked his trunk to see “if I had any explosive devices.”
Some speakers offered harsh rhetoric.
Riley O’Casey, President of the Prince William Education Association, spoke as an educator, saying the policy is many students “worst nightmare.”
Harry Wiggins, President of the Prince William Chapter of the Democratic Party, shared a letter from Virginia State Sen. Scott Serovell, saying that Stewart was ready to deploy “Soviet-style tactics.”
President of the NAACP in Prince William, Rev. Cozy Bailey called the policy a “reign of terror,” that would smolder “embers of hate and intolerance” like a “holocaust inferno.”
Mansimran Kolon, one of three Democratic candidates for delegate of the 13th district, said they would be boycotting Stewart’s campaign contributors including one of Stewart’s top donors American Disposal Services, saying it was time to take out the trash.
Many said the policy would erode the good relationship Prince William County Police had built with immigrant and ethnic communities.
Citizens aimed their ire at Chairman Corey Stewart, questioning his character and integrity. One woman from CASA wrapped herself in the American flog and told Stewart: “You are a man with an evil heart.”
Others said the policy was nothing more than a “publicity stunt” to help Stewart’s Republican bid to become the next governor of Virginia.
Some said it would backfire as it had activated and mobilized them to oppose against his candidacy.
They asked that other board members not remain silent on the issue.
Speakers represented organizations such as CASA, The NAACP as well as private citizens. They were men and women, Latinos, Arabs, African Americans and Caucasians. They were Christians and Muslims. One woman noted that whites were no longer the majority of residents in the county. Most live the Occoquan and Woodbridge Districts. One woman from the City of Manassas said the policy would affect her city as well.
During his Feb. 7 press conference, Stewart said the policy was only aimed at “criminal illegal” aliens. He said no one was ever racially profiled in the county when the previous plan was implemented. He said the policy was aimed at keeping the county safe, and enforcing federal laws. He also said crime was at an all-time low in the county, which he attributed to its past anti-illegal immigration policies. He said he believes sanctuary cities put their residents at risk.
Two women spoke in support of the policy. One woman said allowing illegal immigrants to stay in the country punishes those who are trying to gain citizenship via the proper channels.
Another woman called the speakers and protests “a mob.” She said they are cowards, while she is courageous to come out to speak alone. She called other supporters of the policy cowardly for remaining silent.
© 2017, Stacy Shaw. All rights reserved.
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