Press release:

Manassas Gets First Look at “9500 Liberty”
Award-winning Documentary Recounts 2007-2008 Immigration Culture War

MANASSAS, VA — Jan. 22, 2010
Mid-way through a national tour that has netted two film festival awards and two city proclamations, “9500 Liberty” returns to the place where it began when George Mason University’s Verizon Auditorium hosts a Tuesday 6:30 PM screening on Jan. 26.

This is the first time the feature length documentary has screened in Manassas, home to several of the film’s primary figures, including Greg Letiecq, a blogger and political activist who helped engineer the passage the nation’s most aggressive local ordinance designed to “crack down” on illegal immigration, and Gaudencio Fernandez, a building contractor who protested the law by erecting a series of banners on his property near the Old Town Manassas train station. The film reveals in dramatic detail how and why the controversial “probable cause” mandate for immigration status checks was repealed in April, 2008 by the Prince William County Board of County Supervisors.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010
6:30 PM
Verizon Auditorium, Occoquan Building
George Mason University, Prince William Campus
10900 University Boulevard
Manassas, VA 20110-2203
FREE AND OPEN TO THE PUBLIC

Directors Eric Byler of Gainesville, VA and Annabel Park of Silver Spring, MD have traveled with the film to ten states in recent months, with a host of upcoming screenings that include Hampden-Sydney, VA, Ohio, Montana, and Nebraska. In February, “9500 Liberty” will be presented to Members of Congress at the Capitol Building in Washington, D.C.

Tuesday’s screening, presented with Spanish subtitles, is the opening night for the Immigration and Human Rights Cinema series, hosted by George Mason University and the local interfaith group Unity in the Community. It will be followed by a Q & A discussion with the filmmakers and representatives of the Prince William County Police Department, including a Spanish speaking Officer.

“9500 Liberty” won Best Documentary at the Charlotte Film Festival last September, and the Audience Award at the St. Louis International Film Festival in November. The Mayor of Austin, Texas and the San Francisco Board of Supervisors both issued proclamations commending the film prior to public screenings. The filmmakers expect to announce a cable television premiere and a DVD release date in coming weeks.

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133 thoughts on “Manassas Gets First Look at “9500 Liberty” Tuesday Jan. 26

  1. Rick Bentley

    People have been used as pawns by a lying group of elitist scum, who refuse to enforce the laws they are sworn to uphold. That’s how I see it. The compact broken between our “leaders” and ourselves concerns me more than the particulars of life for those criminals in our midst who should have no expectations, and who grow increasingly entitled over time.

  2. Poor Richard

    M-H
    The LCI started in 1974 and has been readjusted every two years
    until this year — when it would finally benefit Northern Virginia for once.
    Not having the regular scheduled readjustment will cost PWC schools
    22M and MCPS 3M+. Money they deserve and dearly need.
    Fairfax and Loudoun GA members are at least raising the alarm.
    Our delegation, though, has apparently decided to lay low on
    this item and say and do nothing to help our children. Why,
    I’m not sure. It seems like it is more a regional (winners and losers)
    issue more than a political one. We are being rolled and
    our elected state representatives are doing nothing to stop it.

  3. It sickens me that bad policy was used to help win an election. Rick, you are the first person I have actually heard say what you just said. I appreciate your honesty. Most people now say that it was strictly the economy that forced many illegal aliens out of the area.

    You are saying that the unwelcoming threat of the Resolution was the main cause, if I am not mistaken? I probably stick to my perfect storm theory–convergence of many things coming together at once. I don’t think the resolution does jack, if I may be honest. I think the threats and the in hospital climate in the area did a great deal.

    And do not get me wrong, I had great concerns over neighborhood issues. Many things needed fixing. I just can’t ever endorse the way things happened.

  4. Thanks PR, I am going to incorporate your comments into the thread.

  5. Gainesville Resident

    Moon-howler :
    I think many of the families are still here. The young men who were here to work seemed to have moved on.

    And that’s a good thing. They were the big problems on my block. Although, a couple of times (the cast of characters in the house next to me changed on nearly a monthly basis) there were some females in there who were also very noisy – loud female voices making odd sounds in the middle of the night – who knows what was going on there – well, I think I know but I’ll leave it to your imagination). However, the main problem was single men. Now, there were some hispanic families on the block, and they seemed quiet and mainly stuck to themselves, and that was fine – that is they weren’t the troublemakers.

    If a lot of the single men have left the area, that’s a very good thing as they seemed to be the troublemakers. 10+ single men crammed in a boarding house is a prescription for disaster I think! It just spawns very bad behavior.

  6. Rick Bentley

    I can’t say that it was THE main cause, but it was a real cause.

    On whether the resolutiion does anything, it does say that if you’re arrested you’re getting checked. Surely it’s a real disincentive for gangs?

  7. Gainesville Resident

    I also think it was the bad economy that forced a lot of illegal aliens out of this area. Many though have stated the resolution did, and the resolution caused the plummeting of housing values, and try to infer something that isn’t true just because PWC had such a huge meltdown. I still mantain it was all economic, and there are economic reasons that PWC’s meltdown was worse than neighboring counties as far as the housing foreclosure crisis. That isn’t a popular view though, as many people, and the press like the Wash. Post, keep trying to make it sound like the only reason for PWC’s housing crisis was the resolution, conveniently forgetting economic/demographic factors that were most probably the real cause.

  8. Rick, to be perfectly honest, I don’t know where resolution stops and 287(g) starts. I think the only real teeth in the resolution is that everyone is checked regardless. You or I would have our names run through some data base. I think!

    I will say this in support of your opinion: I do not think anyone who didn’t live in a ground zero neighborhood will ever understand what some of the residents went through. Perhaps that is where the breakdown really happened.

    I will always stand by my opinion that there were other ways to handle the problems than to call other human beings dog food. I didn’t even think that about the clowns who were firing bottle rockets on my roof the night the 911 phone systems were down. (and they weren’t illegal immigrants, just for the record)

  9. Rick Bentley

    “I don’t know where resolution stops and 287(g) starts”

    Me neither … I don’t speak Spanish … Byler and Park’s film tends to blame the resolution. The one media source that actually talks to illegal immigrants and attempts to document their thoughts is the Washington Post, they’ve actually done a good job at this in the last half-a-year or so. (Their formerly violent bias towards sob stories and pro-Amnesty creeds has been mitigated). The illegal immigrants they talk to are usually more perturbed about lack of work and income than they are County resolutions.

    The phenomenon of Latinos (and maybe occasionally other people) buying single-family townhouses and subdividing them across many renters remains almost completely unexamined in the English-speaking media, even though as I think Moon-howler agrees with me it is the biggest driving factor in the tension in our County.

  10. Rick Bentley

    I’m sorry, I meant to address the resolution vs. the other economic factors.

    As to 287(g), I guess without it there would be less pretence that anyone could be deported until they engage in violent crime.

  11. GainesvilleResident

    I think a big part of the story that is left out of the whole “the resolution caused lots of foreclosures/lots of Hispanics to flee the county” is the “other economic factors”. The press completely ignores that – I can point to dozens of articles or people’s posts on blogs blaming the resolution solely for the huge drop in PWC’s housing values, the large amount of foreclosures compared to neighboring counties, etc. Talk about over-simplification. I think in many cases it is intentional though – the people who do that did not like the resolution, and therefore they want to blame all the housing woes, etc. in the county on it, when really a very very large piece of what caused the county’s housing nightmare was “other economic factors” and not the resolution.

  12. GainesvilleResident

    I guess the Washington Post has changed its stance a bit. I still remember an article showing PWC’s housing issues (very large foreclosure rate, very large drop in housing values) and blaming it solely on the resolution. They claimed the resolution was the reason the foreclosure rate was huge compared to other counties, and the housing price drop was larger than other counties, ignoring the fact that our ratio of more affordable housing – would make more of that housing susceptible to foreclosures in bad economic times, and therefore would accelerate housing values to drop too. They even had some economics professor who ignored it completely and placed all the blame on the resolution for PWC’s large amount of foreclosures! That made no sense to me. PWC just had more people buying into houses, and getting no doc type loans, than other counties (or a larger proportion of houses bought with those kinds of loans). However, statistics can be made to lie, and they were done so, by the Washington Post and many many others – all with the goal of showing the resolution was very largely responsible (if not totally responsible) for PWC’s housing crisis being much worse than neighboring counties.

    In my opinion, nothing could be further from the truth, and in any event, a very gross oversimplification. I just thought it completely irresponsible journalism for the Wash. Post to say that – in a very long article maybe 1 1/2 years ago now.

  13. GainesvilleResident

    Rick Bentley :
    “I don’t know where resolution stops and 287(g) starts”
    The phenomenon of Latinos (and maybe occasionally other people) buying single-family townhouses and subdividing them across many renters remains almost completely unexamined in the English-speaking media, even though as I think Moon-howler agrees with me it is the biggest driving factor in the tension in our County.

    Exactly – and I still say those kinds of townhouses became very susceptible to foreclosures. The flophouse next to me, and the two across the street from me, all foreclosed in the period of June 2008 – July 2009. That’s just 3 examples, but I think there are many many more. Looking at the names that were the owners, and the amounts they paid for those townhouses (a low for $340K to a shocking high of $370K) at the peak of the housing boom, and never actually seeing those owners around as best as I could tell (all 3 immediately became flophouses) it is a no brainer that the resolution had nothing at all to do with those 3 foreclosures. The one next to me was the last one, it foreclosed just this past July, putting an end to 4 long years of it being a flophouse (3 of which I had to endure).

  14. Rick Bentley

    Meanwhile, I see that it’s dawning on people that “Comprehensive Immigration Reform” is not going to be happening under this President anytime soon – http://www.cnn.com/2010/OPINION/01/29/navarrette.obama.immigration/index.html?hpt=T2

    It’s obvious that Obama uses this as a wedge issue politically, but has no real plan to push it. His own chief of staff calls it “the third rail”. Obama could never push as hard as Bush did anyway, and would never have half the chance Bush did to get an Amnesty through Congress. Just as the GOP uses abortion to get them a certain voting bloc in perpetutity, while never doing anything tangible to prevent abortions and never even formulating a plan for what to do next if abortion were outlawed or left to states’ discretion, Obama hopes to use this issue well into the next election to solidify the Latino vote. If he holds the black and Latino votes, and splits the women’s vote, he wins easily. Hip hip hooray.

    (“Meet the new boss, same as the old boss”).

  15. Rick Bentley

    “it is a no brainer that the resolution had nothing at all to do with those 3 foreclosures”

    I disagree. With a more “welcoming climate” they might still be flophouses.

  16. Rick Bentley

    GR, whether it’s true or not, I for one welcome the perception. They can call our county “land of the devil” and go around saying we burn crosses on lawns for all I care if it means a safer neighborhood for me.

  17. GainesvilleResident

    Moon-howler :
    Rick, to be perfectly honest, I don’t know where resolution stops and 287(g) starts. I think the only real teeth in the resolution is that everyone is checked regardless. You or I would have our names run through some data base. I think!
    I will say this in support of your opinion: I do not think anyone who didn’t live in a ground zero neighborhood will ever understand what some of the residents went through. Perhaps that is where the breakdown really happened.

    Now the second paragraph is the key thing: I do not care what anyone in this debate says. If you did not live next to or near a flophouse or in a “ground zero neighborhood” in MH’s words, you CANNOT IMAGINE what it was like. I don’t care about other neighborhoods deteriorating in the past, as I’ve seen comments to that effect. Try living next to a townhouse with at times 15 people in it, coming and going all hours of the night – honking horns in the middle of the night (it seemed they would do that to pick up people to go to work – even at 2 AM in the morning – rather than going to the door and ringing the door bell), and all the other stuff I’ve written about.

    Whether or not you think the resolution was the right solution here’s one simple fact:

    No one that did not live at “ground zero” using MH’s words, has any possible idea what it was like to live in an affected neighborhood – and especially living in a townhouse where right on the other side of the wall – 15 other people lived! I’m not exaggerating, at one time there was 15 people there, but most times it was closer to 10 (maybe at 10 or slightly above). Every now and then it might dip below 10. This, in a townhouse that including the basement was 2100 square feet! And not all of that basement is finished off – a small part (I’d say roughly 100 to 150 square feet) was set aside for the furnace, washer, and dryer. That leaves maybe 1950 to 2000 square feet for 10 to 15 people – so you are looking at not much square footage per person! Anyway, who wants to live in a basement that has been subdivided into bedrooms – or mostly it just seemed mattresses were thrown down there for people to sleep on! The house also only had 2 full baths, although there was a rumor they may have converted the basement bathroom to a full bath – but I am not sure – another neighbor said they thought that had to be the case – as some residents always went in the back of the house via the basement, and did not seem to maybe have access to the 2 upstairs floors. Again, I could not verify that – although my wife seemed to observe that too. I wasn’t around as much to be able to closely monitor the comings/goings, nor did I really want to actually.

  18. GainesvilleResident

    Rick Bentley :
    GR, whether it’s true or not, I for one welcome the perception. They can call our county “land of the devil” and go around saying we burn crosses on lawns for all I care if it means a safer neighborhood for me.

    I do understand where you are coming from. I’m not sure I 100% agree, but I see the logic in what you say above.

  19. GainesvilleResident

    Rick Bentley :
    “it is a no brainer that the resolution had nothing at all to do with those 3 foreclosures”
    I disagree. With a more “welcoming climate” they might still be flophouses.

    Personally, I think the economy did those houses in.

    However, I won’t disagree with you that if the economy hadn’t happened, and if the owners of those townhouses weren’t in some way maybe made to feel like they were unwelcome (or maybe more accurately their tenants were unwelcome) all 3 of those townhouses probably would still be flophouses today.

    Whatever caused them to cease to be flophouses and go to foreclosure – for that I am very very very thankful!!! Property values actually have recovered greatly from their bottom out in my neighborhood. A year ago I might have been lucky to sell my townhouse for $110K. Now I’m looking at maybe $155K. I’ve been following prices in the neighborhood ever since I started looking at buying a new house – so have been tracking EVERY listing and sale since around April 2008! I know Point of Wood’s housing market intimately – maybe as good as any real estate agent at this point.

  20. GainesvilleResident

    Rick Bentley :
    Meanwhile, I see that it’s dawning on people that “Comprehensive Immigration Reform” is not going to be happening under this President anytime soon – http://www.cnn.com/2010/OPINION/01/29/navarrette.obama.immigration/index.html?hpt=T2

    This was one of his big campaign promises.

    I’ve heard lately some analysis that he may lose some of the Latino vote. Seems like some people are getting impatient with the fact that not much progress seems to have been made toward CIR in the first year of his administration. I guess some people were thinking he’d be elected and before you knew it, CIR would be a reality. They maybe thought it would be a first year priority for him. That was unrealistic thinking, they had to know his first year priorities would be the economy and healthcare reform. No way was it realistic to think he would tackle CIR in the first year of his term.

    Somehow, very unrealistic expectations were built up in the minds of some people concerning CIR – it seems to me. They really did seem to think a lot of forward progress would be made on it in the first year of his term.

    I don’t care whether you are for or against it – just looking at the list of things Obama had to try to accomplish – no way could you realistically think huge progress would be made on CIR in the first year of his term. Not with the state of the economy, and not with the huge push for healthcare reform.

  21. GainesvilleResident

    I think this is a key quote from that article Rick posted:

    “And they expected Obama to make good on the promise he made, while addressing the annual meeting of the National Council of La Raza in July 2008 as a candidate, to treat comprehensive immigration reform as “a top priority in my first year as president.” ”

    Indeed, it was an unrealistic campaign promise – probably before it was realized how bad the economy was and how much time he’d have to devote to that, and also possibly how much time he’d have to devote to pushing along healthcare reform.

    However, other things in that article are very interesting – it was indeed a good article to read about the realities of CIR under the Obama administration.

    Again, I heard from several different major news sources (although they could all be sourcing the same “first source – and I don’t necessarily believe everything or much that I hear in the news) that Obama is losing support among some Latinos as they are growing impatient with his progress on CIR, and are feeling he may not be as committed to it as he made it sound he would be during his campaign.

  22. Rick Bentley

    It’s increasingly clear that Obama’s whole campaign was b***s***.

    On this subject, he’ll do just enough demonizing of Republicans to keep the Latino vote.

    He’ll almost surely win reelection in 2012. I could care less; I just wish that some viable third party or movement will make an impact and keep one or both parties on their toes.

  23. Gainesville Resident

    I don’t really see the Republicans gaining much of the Latino vote, that’s for sure! However, it does seem some Latinos are growing impatient with Obama’s promise of making CIR a major priority in his first year of office, which he clearly didn’t.

  24. Too bad more attention wasn’t paid to zoning issues and residential living codes before things got so out of hand.

    It seems like often our laws keep us from doing the common sense thing and therefore reduce us to doing stupid things. For example, because we are a Dillion Rule state, we cant say 20 people can’t live in a 2000 sq foot house. That is just common sense.

    I live near a boarding house as we speak. I know there is an illegal kitchen in there. However, I am not going to run and tattle. No one there bothers me. The property is kept up and the neighbors are considerate. There aren’t a fleet of cars outside on the street. So why do I care if there is a full kitchen in the basement. Everyone behaves. If they don’t behave, however, I would drop a dime on them in a heartbeat.

    More importantly, I don’t share walls with this house. Townhomes always have it worse when it comes to bad neighbors. The aggrevation is exponential.

  25. Gainesville Resident

    I do agree that too bad more enforcement of zoning issues and residential living codes wasn’t done. Actually, the city was good at times at cleaning out the flophouse next to me, but after a month or two they would just come back (or a new group of people would). I got the city to clean it out twice, but then that disastrous ruling was passed by the city to try and crackdown on the problem. After that, the city wasn’t interested in doing anything about that townhouse. I always complained non-anonymously even though there was an anonymous hotline at times to complain.

    Also, it is amazing the number of people the overcrowding zoning laws thinks can live in a 3 bedroom townhouse. I forget, but it is a fairly large number (8 or 9?).

    Indeed, sharing walls makes the situation far far worse. 10 to 15 living right on the other side of the wall from you – it is common sense that many people would make a lot of noise a lot of the time. For some reason they often ran their stereo at ear blasting levels in the wee hours of the morning. I never got that – how did anyone get any sleep over there? Who knows. They also had a propensity to shout an awful lot – I don’t know if it was arguing or just loud talking, as it was in Spanish of course so i couldn’t understand the conversation. Of course, hearing loud “salsa music” late at night was not fun, Latin music has a lot of rhythm and drumbeats and sounds great, until you hear it through the wall and the wall reverberates with the pounding rhythm, and you can feel it on your floor and in your bed when you try to sleep. Then, that kind of music sounds not so great. of course, there’s plenty of American music that would be just as annoying in the middle of the night – but I just think Latin music in general has a lot more lower frequency drums and stuff that make it even worse resonating through walls and floors!

    However, even in a single family house – I wouldn’t want to have a flophouse next to me, or right across the street from me – or really visible from my property. Just due to the usual constant garbage strewn out front, such as shown in some of Lafayette’s pictures. That would still annoy me greatly, even if i didn’t hear music and noise from the house. But of course, having it right on the other side of the wall from you just exacerbates what is already a very very bad problem!

  26. And it all boils down to the property owner and what they are allowing. I look at my neighbor who rents out vs some of the flop houses. No comparison. Pablo (named changed to protect him) has rules, regulations, and takes care of the property. It looks much better than when the previous owners who are whiter than I am lived there. I don’t know what the ethnicity of the current renters is. I know it used to be mixed. People come and people go. I don’t like not knowing who my neighbor s are but nothing I can do about that. I just speak if I see them.

    The entire difference though is in the standards of the property owner. He introduced himself and gave me his cell phone number since he isnt always there. He also isn’t overcrowded for the size house he has.

  27. Gainesville Resident

    If a house that was rented out was maintained well and the owner made sure their tenants behaved properly and didn’t trash the outside, and park many cars on the street, etc. etc. we wouldn’t have these problems.

    Although, I will say from personal experience, renting a house out is not easy – in a way you never know who you are going to get or how they will turn out as tenants. I speak from personal experience being new at it – having rented my townhouse out the last year and it being a “fun” process. And, a property management company really rented it out – so i was one step removed from the proceess, but it was still something that I would not want to go through again. As soon as I get the tenant out (probably will have to evict due to non-payment of rent) the house is going up for sale. I’m done renting, it has not been a fun year in that regard. I only rented because no way was I going to sell my house at the bottom of the market. Prices have rebounded substantially in the old neighborhood, and after going through one year (well, it’s going to be more than one year now as the tenant doens’t seem to want to move out) of renting, I don’t ever want to rent a property out ever again. Of course, it was very very hard to find someone to rent a house next to a flophouse – a lot of potential renters took one look and said NO WAY. Now that problem seems to have been solved since the foreclosure last July, thank goodness.

  28. Poor Richard

    M-H,
    You should care about the makeshift “kitchen” in the basement because of
    the fire hazard risk. In some neighborhoods, 9-1-1 calls have dropped
    as the job market soured and flop house renters moved away taking
    their gerryrigged “hot plates” that tended to be a major fire hazard.
    Health and safety concerns aren’t racist, in fact to turn away and not
    care about them is a real mark of racism.

  29. Gainesville Resident

    That’s an interesting point about makeshift kitchens in flop houses, that PR makes. I never really thought about that. I always thought about the overcrowding with all the mattresses and junk being a fire hazard.

    My wife and one other neighbor was pretty sure that the flophouse next to me – some residents only had basement access as they always came and went through the basement. It could be they had a makeshift kitchen down there, and somehow utilized the half bath down there as a full bath (maybe it was expanded or something). My wife and a neighbor was pretty sure they only had basement access – but I don’t really know for sure.

  30. Poor Richard

    G-R, and adequate egress in case of fire is vital. A basement with only
    one exit is no place for a makeshift kitchen. This isn’t a political issue –
    it is a public safety issue.

  31. Gainesville Resident

    Agree PR – it is as you say a public safety issue and has nothing to with politics, immigration resolutions, etc. That’s a very important point to make.

    I suspect the overcrowded townhouse that was next to me was that way too. People thought they had blocked off access to the upper levels in that townhouse – that is the door from the basement was always locked so those in the basement could not go upstairs. If they were cooking meals down there on a hotplate, I would agree – that was very dangerous and I suspect any fire marshall would say that was a violation. Doesn’t have anything to do with who the occupants are, or even how many there are, in that particular case.

    It’s a point that doesn’t seem to come up in the debate on overcrowded houses, and it is an important point to be made, I think.

  32. I never said it was a make-shift kitchen, I don’t think. It is a normal kitchen with a sink, a stove and a refrigerator. The down level has been turned into an apartment. There are 2 exits. I don’t know when the no kitchen rule went into effect in the county but I sure wouldn’t rat someone out for having a kitchen downstairs whether it was for a tenant or parents in law.

    I also understand why the county rule exists. It is a way to control some of the housing problems that exist. Trust me, if I saw behavior that was of the ‘bad neighor’ sort and I couldn’t get it taken care of with the home owner, I would drop a dime on them over that kitchen.

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