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MANASSAS, Va. – Best known as the site of two major battles during the War Between the States, this city of 35,000 some 25 miles due west of Washington, is shaping up as the next front in the fight against illegal immigration.
About 100 citizens frustrated by the effects of illegal immigration – this time a Northern Virginia suburb of the nation’s capital – last night joined the growing battle by municipalities against a problem with its roots in a lack of federal enforcement.
Citizens of Manassas, Manassas Park and Prince William County gathered together at the Manassas City Council chambers for the first ever meeting of “Help Save Manassas,” a grass-roots group dedicated to preserving the community, fostering public awareness of the detriments of illegal immigration, lobbying local government on issues involving immigration and to provide a voice for citizens affected by illegal immigrants, according to the group’s charter.
On the agenda of the first meeting of HSM was the adoption of the bylaws and the election of officers.
One of the candidates, Dan Arnold, who was named a member of the executive board, made it clear he has no animosity toward any particular ethnic groups.
“But that there is a reason why sovereign nations have borders,” he added.
The group’s newly elected president, Greg Letiecq, opened the meeting by stating what HSM is and what it is not.
“It is a grass-roots activist group dedicated to preserving the community, but it is not a group for bashing anyone,” he said.
Before the election began Letiecq stated that there is “nothing stronger than a group of citizens dedicated to a cause.”
The Manassas activists were inspired by action by residents of nearby Herndon in Fairfax County. They formed a group called “Help Save Herndon” that first successfully defeated a city council measure to open a publicly funded day labor center. The town has since become the first in the nation official to welcome federal immigration authorities to take action against illegals in its midst. Herndon police are also learning to enforce federal immigration laws.
A similar group has also been started in nearby Loudon County, the fastest growing in the nation.
The group’s draft bylaws include a provision to remove members for “inappropriate conduct.”
The organizer of the Manassas group has opened participation to citizens and legal residents of Manassas, Manassas Park and Prince William County.
Manassas is blighted with gang graffiti and tattooed cruisers along its broad and lengthy boulevards. It includes both multimillion-dollar estates and rundown apartments housing thousands of illegal aliens attracted to jobs in the hundreds of retail stories that line the length and breadth of its major arteries that run through the heart of Prince William County.
Frustrated by the federal government’s immigration policy, small cities across the nation are taking enforcement into their own hands, passing laws that make it harder for illegals to live and work in their communities.
Dozens of towns have followed the path of Hazelton, Pa., which passed an ordinance last July to deter housing owners from renting to illegals. Riverside, N.J., quickly passed a similar measure, which fines landlords $1,000 per day for renting to illegals and removes business licenses from employers who hire illegals.
Legal action was quickly taken by opponents who insist the new laws usurp federal authority.
The Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund, which is challenging Hazelton in court, says four communities have passed similar measures and another 17 are considering them.
On the state level, legislatures have considered a record 550 pieces of immigration-related legislation and passed at least 77 new laws in 27 states, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
In Georgia, a massive immigration reform package passed last May sanctioned employers who hire illegals and anyone who offers them access to public services. Colorado’s legislature later passed similar measures.
In Pennsylvania, Hazelton Mayor Louis J. Barletta, an immigrant’s grandson, says he wants to make his town “the toughest place on illegal immigrants in America.”
“What I’m doing here is protecting the legal taxpayer of any race,” he said. “And I will get rid of the illegal people. It’s this simple: They must leave.”
- In Dallas, residents will vote May 12 on a proposed ordinance that would require apartment landlords to verify the legal status of tenants.
- In Mission Viejo, California, the city council has unanimously approved an ordinance to require city contractors to verify their employees’ immigration status as a condition of doing business.
- In Valley Park. Mo., last summer, landlords began evicting residents who don’t have legal status in the country.
- Landis, N.C., unanimously passed an ordinance that requires residents to conduct business with the town in English only, the local Kannapolis Independent Tribune reported. Alderman James Furr said the reason for the ordinance is to get everyone on the same page. “We want to welcome immigrants to Landis and want to understand them,” Furr said. “When someone comes before the board, I want to know them.”
- A nearby town, Mint Hill, N.C., is considering an ordinance that would go a step further, making English the official language but also punishing business owners that hire illegal workers or provide them services. Business owners would face loss of licenses for up to five years on the first offense, the Kannapolis Independent Tribune said.
- In Escondido, Calif., city leaders voted 3-2 to draft an ordinance to punish people who provide jobs and housing to illegal immigrants. Councilman Ed Gallo said the council’s charge is to “provide for the health and safety of the residents of Escondido. Is it wrong then to ask them to be here legally?”
- In Farmers Branch, Texas, a city councilman plans to propose similar measures and also wants to stop publication of any documents in Spanish and eliminate subsidies for illegal immigrants in the city’s youth programs, according to KWTX-TV in Waco, Texas.
- In Riverside, N.J., the city council already has adjusted to court challenges, approving several amendments to reinforce an ordinance that bans hiring or housing illegal immigrants.
- In Arcadia, Wisc., the new mayor, John Kimmel, is being accused of racism for plans to make English the official language and to create an “illegal alien task force” that would forward complaints to federal authorities and hold landlords accountable for renting to illegal immigrants, reported the Associated Press.
- The city council of Altoona, Pa., introduced an ordinance calling for fines and revocation of licenses for employers who hire illegal aliens and landlords who house them.