Eighty Percent OK With Discrimination

Letters To The Editor
Letters To The Editor

Awhile back, I submitted a column to our local newspaper, now named “InsideNoVa.com,” formerly “The Potomac News.”  My column submission was triggered by a report that about 80 percent of Prince William County were “OK” with the way our police department were handling the anti-Hispanic immigration resolution passed by our Board of County Supervisors back in 2007.

I was deeply offended by this information, and submitted my column.

This column is reprinted as submitted.

An August fourth news article in “The Potomac News,” “Report: Most Prince William residents OK with local immigration policy” reported that 80.5 percent of Prince William County residents surveyed are OK with the way immigration policy is being enforced by our county police.  The article cited findings from an interim report by the Police Executive Research Forum, which had been commissioned by our police department to conduct a two-year study on the immigration resolution and its effects on our community.

This immigration resolution would be the one our Republican Chairman of the Board of County Supervisors (BOCS), Cory Stewart, whipped up back in 2007.  It initially required our police to check the residency status of anyone detained or pulled over during traffic stops, if the officer believed that person was living in the United States illegally. At the time, it was no secret that the policy was aimed directly at our Hispanic population.  Mr. Stewart’s apparent close personal advisor Mr. Greg Letiecq, founder of “Help Save Manassas” and recognized by the Southern Poverty Law Center as a nativist, made the anti-Hispanic intent quite clear.

While reading the August fourth article, I wondered who the 19.5 percenters are who are not OK with the way police are enforcing this policy.  The demographics of our county provide a clue.  U.S. Census Bureau data shows that as of 2007 our Hispanic population was 19.2 percent.  Another clue comes from an article in “The Potomac News” of July 29, 2009, “Family: Police used excessive force at baptism party”.

As reported, police in the Manassas area were called in at 8:00 PM on a Sunday evening to quiet down a noisy baptism party hosted by a Hispanic family.  Accounts of what happened next vary with the teller.  However, when all was done the police had tasered an unarmed – pregnant – woman three times, and then arrested her for assaulting an officer.  The police also arrested the grandfather of the baptized children for being drunk in his own backyard.  At last report, that man was still being held while the police checked his immigration status as per Mr. Stewart’s anti-immigration policy.

One finding cited in the interim report is “local Hispanics developed an increasingly negative view of police after the resolution was passed.”  I can’t imagine why.

I think everyone who lived in this county back in 2007 can remember the hysteria whipped up by Mr. Stewart over “illegal immigration.”  Coincidentally timed for the election cycle, Mr. Stewart apparently decided that our “illegal” Hispanic population was just about the biggest threat to peace and prosperity our county had ever encountered; something had to be done about it; and he was just the person to take it on.

Defined by the mindless bumper-sticker slogan “Illegal is Illegal,” Mr. Cory made immigration policy the cornerstone of his re-election campaign.  He was so concerned about knowing what county residents really wanted, on the night the BOCS were taking public comments on his proposed policy Mr. Stewart slipped away for an interview with CNN.

The immigration issue has quieted down considerably this past year.  One reason could be that the Republican-dominated BOCS has been busy dealing with the impact of financial disasters bequeathed to us by the former Bush Administration.  An alternate reason could be that the Republican Party has begun to realize that demonizing one of the largest and fastest growing demographic populations in the U.S. is not particularly effective in winning their vote.  Whatever.

I suspect the 19.5 percent of our population who are not OK with the way Mr. Stewart’s immigration policy is being enforced tend to be Hispanic, along with some non-Hispanic people who deeply object to the way our laws are seemingly being used to discriminate against an entire population.  You can include me among this latter group.

Needless to say, my column was never published.  The editor, Alex Granados indicated that it “had promise,” but that was it.  It should also go without saying that I remain opposed to the immigration “resolution,” consider it discrimination, and remain offended that 80 percent of my fellow Prince William County residents think discrimination is OK.

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