Immigrants in the Spotlight Again in Manassas and Prince William County

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On February 16, 2009, almost 200 people marched from Manassas Park to the Judicial Center in Manassas to bring attention to a case of alleged police brutality against a local immigrant and Hispanic immigrant issues in general. The complaint that sparked the rally was made by 38-year-old Salvadoran immigrant, Aqueda Dominguez. She claimed that a Manassas Park police officer beat her during a routine traffic stop on February 2 because she refused to sign a ticket for having a broken headlight. Ms. Dominguez maintained that she is able to speak English, but she could not understand the officer’s request.

In addition to protesting the treatment of Ms. Dominquez, the crowd of marchers was protesting local government policies enacted in the past year that they claim are anti-immigrant. One of these regulations is the 287(g) program of the Immigration and Nationality Act which allows local law enforcement to team up with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (“ICE”) to enforce federal immigration laws. The 287 (g) program is aimed at deporting illegal immigrants who have broken other laws. Members of the mostly Hispanic marching group chanted for “Justice!” in a call-and-response format, first in Spanish and then in English.

Although it may be unrelated directly, on the following day, February 17, 2009, Prince William County Board of Supervisors, via a “Staff Directive,” eliminated a new requirement that unincorporated business owners verify their immigration status in- person at County offices to apply for a Business, Professional and Occupational License Now, instead of having to apply in person, these business owners will be able to check a box on their application certifying their lawful presence in the United States. Many critics had decried the County’s recent imposition of this regulation as an unnecessary government requirement intended to make members of the immigrant business community feel unwelcome.

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