Saturday, March 08, 2008

The Frustration of Being Illegal

From the Washington Post:

Manassas,Virgina- Celia Llanes came to the United States 4 1/2 years ago with typical immigrant aspirations. She hoped to provide for her family, earn enough to buy a patch of land back home and perhaps take her girls to Disney World. Today, her wish is far simpler: that when she is deported her girls will be deported with her.

"I am waiting for immigration," she says with a matter-of-fact tone. She has begun sending some of her more valued belongings (such as a set of Royal Prestige pots she paid for in installments) to Guatemala because, she says, "they don't let you take anything."

As the anti-illegal-immigration backlash grew last year in Prince William County, where Llanes lives, the 32-year-old Manassas resident said she started to feel the world around her change. She said supermarket cashiers suddenly grew annoyed and acted as if they didn't understand her. She said her girls told her, "Mami, las maestras prefieren a los Americanos." ("The teachers prefer the Americans.")

Prince William county supervisors voted in October to enact some of the region's toughest policies against illegal immigrants, including the use of police to enforce immigration laws.

Llanes says the new measures have become such a source of personal anxiety that she is convinced they are taking a toll on her health. She has sharp stomach pain apparently caused by gallstones, and her frequent headaches have gotten worse.

Llanes, her husband and their children don't venture far from home for fear of being stopped while driving without a license. In the summer, she did not take the girls to the neighborhood pool because she has heard of raids at public places. On Christmas, they only went to a brother-in-law's house nearby and did not stay long.

Llanes is resigned and, in a way, agrees with those anti-illegal-immigrant forces around her. As someone who entered the country illegally, she does not feel she is entitled to much. "If they are going to take me away, let them; after all, this country is not ours," she often says.

These days, she most fears that she'll be alone when she is finally stopped and deported, just as she heard happened recently to a young man whose mother had sent him to buy shrimp at the local Global Food market. She can't bear the thought of leaving her girls behind.

One separation "already cost me too much," she says.

Read the full article

*Tough policies that crack down on illegal immigrants may increase the number of deportations, but they can also contribute to an environment of fear where traffickers can use the threat of arrest, prison and deportation by law enforcement to control their victims. According to the NGOs I worked with in the Philippines, traffickers often coach their victims on the evils of law enforcement and government authorities before being sent to their destination. If victims end up in a destination that aggressively cracks down on illegal immigrations, coupled with their coached fear of government authorities, their motive may be to stay hidden from sight rather than attempt to seek help out of fear of arrest or deportation making it harder to rescue them.

Update: Estimated cost of Prince William Immigration Crackdown Doubles

Day laborers in Virginia

From the Examiner:

Prince William County's illegal immigration crackdown is going to cost far more than originally expected.The new policies go into force on Monday.

They require county police to check the immigration status of anyone arrested, even for minor offenses, if they suspect the person might be in the country illegally. The policies also deny some county services to illegal immigrants.

The new measures are now expected to cost $6.4 million in the first year, more than twice as much as previously estimated. The five-year price tag is about $26 million.A big reason for the higher cost is the police chief's recommendation to install cameras in all police cars to guard against allegations of racial profiling.

Doing that will cost $3.1 million the first year.

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