The family that planted corn in the front yard of their $500,000 home is gone from Carrie Oliver’s street. So are the neighbors who drilled holes into the trees to string up a hammock.
Oliver’s list goes on: The loud music. The beer bottles. The littered diapers. All gone. When she and her husband, Ron, went for walks in their Manassas area neighborhood, she would take a trash bag and he would carry a handgun. No more. “So much has changed,” she said in a gush of relief, standing with her husband on a warm summer evening recently outside a Costco store.
A short distance away, across the river of retail commerce that is Sudley Road, Norman Gonzalez spoke of change not as renewal, but as a kind of collapse.
Business at his restaurant, Cuna del Sol, has declined 50 percent. Worse still, his extended family’s slow, steady relocation from the Guatemalan town of Jutiapa to the bustling Prince William suburbs has imploded. “A year ago, I had the biggest family in all of Manassas, maybe 100 relatives,” he said.
Now, Gonzalez, a legal U.S. resident, has his own list: Langley Park, Chantilly, Fairfax City. That is where his brothers have scattered, and they will not visit him. “There’s too much fear here,” Gonzalez said.
Since the day one year ago when Prince William County supervisors launched their crackdown on illegal immigration, the gulf between the Olivers’ relief and Gonzalez’s dejection has narrowed little, and possibly widened.
At least there is one thing partisans on both sides agree on: Hispanic immigrants are leaving Prince William. Whether their departure has improved the county’s quality of life, or pushed its already strained economy further downward, is the new topic of contention driven largely by views of whether the presence of immigrants was a good thing in the first place.