This story, in the Chicago Tribune, eloquently touches upon the more deep seated issue that faces America. In my opinion, we, as a nation, are facing an identity crisis. Who are we as Americans? Are we a belief of values, espoused by Thomas Jefferson, and our forefathers? Are we really a nation based on the content of our character or the color of our skin? Very soon, the identity of America will look very different, within decades, “white” Americans will become the minority. What does that mean, and how will we integrate this new dynamic into our culture?

It’s a sense of unrest familiar in small towns and suburbs across America. Immigrants have flooded the country in great numbers in the past. What’s different now is where they’re settling—far from the border states and big cities that long absorbed the huddled masses.

Their integration into small-town America is marked in Manassas, as elsewhere, by a language of fear, resentment and anger. Under pressure from longtime residents, local officials have cracked down, ordering police to dramatically increase the amount of time spent checking people’s Immigration status.

Those authorities say they’re targeting illegality. Others say they’re simply going after brown people.

If we’re due a national conversation about the changing complexion of America, though, it’s not happening in the 2008 campaign.

Barack Obama and John McCain both support what they call “comprehensive” Immigration reform, but neither spends much time on this volatile topic in his presidential campaign. When they do, they don’t address the fundamental tension of America’s great Immigration debate today.

In Manassas, some old-timers watch their home changing and fight the newcomers. Others fight that backlash.

For all of them, it’s a battle for their very identity.

A new complexion
For most of our history, immigrants settled largely in the Northeast and the Midwest. In 1920, nine out of 10 immigrants lived in cities of more than 100,000. The quintessential immigrant destination was Manhattan’s Lower East Side.

Now the decline of traditional manufacturing is redirecting immigrants to agricultural centers in the South, tourist centers in the West, smaller cities all over. The Census Bureau first picked up on this dispersion in the 1980s, but the proportion of immigrants in small towns really took off in the mid-1990s.

In Prince William County, where Manassas sits, whites went from 65 percent of the population in 2000 to 52 percent in 2006. Hispanics increased—from 10 percent to 20 percent, roughly—in the same period.

Maureen Wood liked the diversity at first. The students at the high school where she is a substitute teacher taught her Spanish words.

Then the school district put up mobile classrooms.

A friend’s son couldn’t get work as a landscaper when he came home from college for the summer. The company owner said he only hired native Spanish speakers, to make it easier for his crew and foreman.

The changes turned Wood and Kipp into activists. Pressure from citizens like them is having a powerful effect in Prince William County.

Last year, the county board of supervisors ordered its police force to inquire more regularly about people’s Immigration status. They later scaled back that directive, but the thunderous debate had its effect, as immigrants started running scared. Hundreds withdrew from English-as-a-second language programs in local schools.

122 thoughts on ““Immigration polarizes small-town America”

  1. TDB

    What did I misread about your relatives citizenship? Where did I suggest or imply that it was ok to harass ANYONE? ANd, yes there are bigots everywhere. You probably live next door to one!!! But, that does not all bigots!!

  2. TDB

    Censored bybvbl, 26. September 2008, 16:36
    Censored: That WashPost article you cite above speaks only of Hispanics, Spanish music, Spanish language, Pepe’s Tacos…hmmm

    Of course it doesn’t. It also talks about conservative white residents who are resistant to change.
    —————————————–
    Isn’t the conversation about illegal aliens? Why focus on hispanics?

  3. TDB

    Oh…and there are no conserative hispanics, blacks, asians, indians??? Always the white guilt!

  4. TDB

    If determining legal status by appearance you mean standing around the 7-11 at 0 dark 30 I’ll wager $1000.00 per head that they are illegal!!! My guess I’m taking your money! Care to wager?

  5. TDB

    If determining legal status by appearance you mean a bunch of guys hanging around the 7-11 at 0 dark 30 I’ll wager $1000.00 per head that they are illegal!!! My guess I’m taking your money! Care to wager?

  6. freedom

    Censored bybvbl cites the Washpo article concerning Sterling Park…suggesting that since those who reside here ILLEGALLY aren’t the cause of ALL problems, they should be absolved of any responsibility and be totally excused. Does that make sense at all?

    How ridiculous can this become…??

  7. Censored bybvbl

    LOL!!! Twist and spin away, guys. It all plays at BVBL. I expect you to make more valid arguments here. I don’t know why I expect it really – your reps precede you.

    Gotta heat dinner and crack open a bottle of champagne with hubby in anticipation of the debates. Maybe I’ll catch ya afterwards.

  8. TDB

    Excuse me: Why don’t you answer the questions? You make these wild-eyed accusations and then you want to heat dinner. I’m sure your ‘husband’ loves TV dinners!

    Censored bybvbl, 26. September 2008, 16:36
    Censored: That WashPost article you cite above speaks only of Hispanics, Spanish music, Spanish language, Pepe’s Tacos…hmmm

    Of course it doesn’t. It also talks about conservative white residents who are resistant to change.
    —————————————–
    Question: Isn’t the conversation about illegal aliens? Why focus on hispanics?

    ====================================================================
    TDB, 26. September 2008, 16:40
    What did I misread about your relatives citizenship? Where did I suggest or imply that it was ok to harass ANYONE? ANd, yes there are bigots everywhere. You probably live next door to one!!! But, that does not all bigots!!

  9. TDB

    Censored you have no argument. Name calling and accusations is your strong suit!

  10. TDB

    Hey Censored, any chance there’s a Puffy Taco on the menu?

  11. Leila

    Again TDB makes day laborers representative of the entire Latino illegal immigrant population even though they are a tiny fraction of that population.

    Why is that so compelling to you? How exactly does your kneejerk conclusion about day laborers extend to the hundreds of thousands of Latinos in this area? How do you presume to know their immigration status. More to the point, why do you think all the other kinds of immigrants you see are NOT in illegal status. What about their appearance reveals that?

  12. Censored bybvbl

    Ha ha. Potty-mouthed TDB is losing the argument – has to make sexist remarks…

  13. Moon-howler

    And I know for a fact that MISTER Censored hates tv dinners. He has told me so himself.

    Actually, I saw 2 white boys sitting over with several hispanics at the Coverstone 7-11 fairly recently. They looked like day-laborer wanna be’s to me. Have you all missed that we are in a recession? You do know know the person’s status. You can say it a million times. It won’t make it so.

  14. freedom

    Poor illegal aliens…:( Don’t ya just wish you could cuddle ’em close and let ’em know how much we love ’em?? Poor il things….:(

  15. Moon-howler

    Freedom, what is your point? You sound like you want to go to the pet store and buy one. Have you had a change of heart? Are you a ….(whispering) a closeted Illegal alien apologist???? Tell me it ain’t so!!!

  16. freedom

    Hahahaha, “…go to the pet store and buy one…” …so cute of you to say…don’t even have to go to the “pet store,” the lil guys are all over the place…:) 🙂

  17. Red Dawn

    “Ha ha. Potty-mouthed TDB is losing the argument – has to make sexist remarks…”

    lol, puffy tacos usually goe together with SOUR cream. 😉

  18. Michael

    Robb,

    You quote “natural” law, but you appear to assume it applies in all areas absolutely and in some areas where it does not and you seem to assert it applies in isolation of evidence of other wrong-doing. I do not have an absolute perspective of the law as you claim, I simply have a perspective that “natural law” is defined by society in the same way that “civil” law is defined by society, and for that it requires enforcement of a “standard” of law, until changed, since the law is always subject to interpretation of the community that makes it, but never subject to a right to simply ignore it, just for every opinionated claim of perceived definition and evidence of natural law violation or specific individual opinion of what “natural” law is and is not.

    That is what is wrong with this “illegal” alien issue. It is the perception of “natural” law violations without clear evidence of natural law violations that is the issue.

    What do you consider the basic natural law rights of an “illegal” alien? The right to come into a country without a visa and do whatever community harm they desire? What about the natural law rights of everyone negatively affected by that?
    I believe you confuse “natural, individual rights, with “illegal aliens “rights” to exploit, cheat ansd steal, and claim the right to be non-accountable for any damage done or accountable to any civil law.

    Even criminals have natural law rights, but we still indentify them in society, hunt them down and punish them.

    What you advocate is nothing less than allowing criminals and illegal aliens to roam free, do whatever damage they want to the “majority” of citizens and then give them amnesty from the law as a “natural right”, essentially invalidating ALL law.

    You are as looney as you claim I am, if you have so much sympathy for criminals and lawbreakers, you would never punish them.

    The problem is we need a reliable way to determine who is “illegal” and who is not at all times, so the law can be justly and UNIFORMLY APPLIED TO THE PROPER CRIMINALS, RATHER THAN BEING FORCED TO guess.

  19. Michael

    The proper way to ensure 100% effectiveness of this, is to issue US identity that clearly defines who is legal and who is illegal to all persons (citizens and permanant residents) in the US. Any person not possessing the proper “legal” identification is clearly illegal (even standing on the corner of 7-11), and when asked to present ID can then simply be arrested and deported.

    That positive and authentic identity check, harms no innocent person any more than a driver’s license check, and clearly prevents people from lying, cheating and breaking the law.

    If we don’t want “legal” people standing on the corner of 7-11 and don’t like the image it gives our county, we simply need to display a zoning sign that prohibits soliciting for work on public sidewalks, or private property with permission of the owners. That takes care of the issue for anyone who doesn’t like gangs, loiterers, or bums hanging around prominant public places.

  20. Michael

    Alanna,

    Everytime I see someone post using a racial, gender, ethnic, religious group perspective, I point it out. IT IS EASY TO TELL WHO DOES AND DOES NOT. They simply use words that identify preference of favoritism, anger, discrimmination or ethnic rhetoric for prefered and non-preferred groups (racial, religious, and ethnic groups) instead of “individuals” and specific cases of law or advocacy applied to groups instead of to individuals.

    If you want I’ll name specific names and incidents where the use of hispanic, black, white, asian, christian, muslim or hindu are used instead of individual characteristics and generic human attributes.

    Elena,

    Yes is is wrong for Cory to use the word hispanic, when he means “indiviuals” who are breaking the law. THAT IS THE FUNDAMENTAL PROBLEM EVERYONE, INCLUDING MOST ON THIS BLOG HAVE, A MINDSET THAT CANNOT THINK IN TERMS OF LAW APPLIED TO INDIVIDUALS AND NOT TO GROUPS. The problem exists with almost ever pro-illegal, or con-illegal statement made, and should be about “individuals” who break the law, and about “individuals” who do not.

  21. Michael

    The problem also exists with minority groups who define themselves not as individuals in a non-color typed society, but as priviliged and arrogant members of an ethnic culture who deserve special consideration, law and rights based on their color, and not on their individual needs, skills, abilities and indivudual situation.

    Here is how I feel about language. Mankind has spent 1.2 million years creating separate languages, as a result of dispersion, climate and geopraphy, and has never been able to have a common understanding.

    We need a single unify language if we are ever to get rid of misunderstanding, de-humanization, reduce conflict and simply feel we are member sof the same society and humanity. The sooner we do it the sooner our cultural wars will disappear.

  22. Robb Pearson

    Michael:

    First, some basics as to what “Natural Law” is . .

    (1) “Natural Law”, as it has been basically understood for over 2,500 years (Heraclitus, Cicero, Epictetus, Seneca, Aquinas, Grotius, Locke, Jefferson, etc.), is the unchanging and unalterable “truth” self-evident in Nature (or Creation) which communicates the universal standard of human coexistence.

    (2) “Natural Law” determines “natural rights”, i.e., rights of living and being which are innate to every human being and which are inviolable.

    (3) “Natural Law” can be discerned, and natural rights can be identified, by utilizing our faculties of reason.

    (4) “Natural Law” applies to all human beings equally, and is absolute.

    (5) Laws written by man, unlike “Natural Law”, are artificial and not absolute. Where man’s laws violate “Natural Law”, they are invalid.

    You stated:

    What do you consider the basic natural law rights of an “illegal” alien? The right to come into a country without a visa and do whatever community harm they desire? What about the natural law rights of everyone negatively affected by that?

    The people you prejudicially refer to as “illegal aliens”, I refer to more humanely as “immigrating persons”.

    So to answer your question, the basic natural rights of an immigrating person are the same as mine and yours: the right to life, liberty, and security, which includes freedom from oppression.

    The possession of such rights, however, does not permit anyone to enjoy those rights at the destructive expense of another’s.

    This means immigrating persons do not have the right to possess life, liberty, and security at the expense of our lives, liberty, or security (which, with the exception of the extreme few who commit crimes, the vast majority don’t do and are not doing).

    Nor does it mean we can rob immigrating persons of their right to life, liberty, or security because of irrational fear and/or prejudice.

    At the heart of it all is the “Natural Law” imperative to pursue and achieve harmony in human interrelationships, be they personal, communal, societal, global.

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