Immigration in the Baltimore-Washington Corridor

Welcome to America
by John Parson

There are many “facts” currently being circulated about illegal immigrants, particularly from the conservative groups like Help Save Virginia and Help Save Maryland. Supposedly, per their “experts,” illegal immigrants drain our economy, mooch off of our system, burden our schools and communities, raise our crime rates, lower our housing values, and generally rape and defile our good old home grown American culture. They would have you believe that illegal immigration is the key issue in our country, and that “illegals” are a plague to our society that must be removed.

These groups will suggest that immigrants drive down property values, raise crime rates, and ruin our communities. However, these ideas are nothing more than the same arguments presented against the poor and working class communities in any city in America, especially areas where whites are in the minority. It’s a sign of class division and poverty, not immigration status. Rather than being a legitimate argument against immigration, it is nothing more than rehashing the same old case for gentrification.

It’s time for all of us, as workers, to recognize the plain and simple truth: “illegal” or not, we are all human beings, we all have needs, and immigrants face the same struggles as us: a boss who seeks to exploit us, and a wealthy few who seek to control us. Regardless of who we are, or where we’re from, we are workers. Its time to stop griping about immigrants “taking our jobs,” “destroying our language,” or “destroying our culture,” realize such vitriol is nothing more than a lie, and join with the immigrant community in struggle. We must recognize anti-immigrant policy, and anti-immigrant lies, do nothing but divide the working class, and if we seek any realistic gain, such divisions must be erased.


Thousands of immigrants and workers gather together in protest of anti-immigrant resolutions passed earlier this year in Prince William County

Welcome to America: Immigration in the Baltimore-Washington Corridor
by John Parson

There are many “facts” currently being circulated about illegal immigrants, particularly from the conservative groups like Help Save Virginia and Help Save Maryland. Supposedly, per their “experts,” illegal immigrants drain our economy, mooch off of our system, burden our schools and communities, raise our crime rates, lower our housing values, and generally rape and defile our good old home grown American culture. They would have you believe that illegal immigration is the key issue in our country, and that “illegals” are a plague to our society that must be removed.

They point to solutions like 287(g), a law that allows Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE), a federal agency that replaced the INS, to train state and local police to act as immigration officials, arresting and detaining illegal immigrants. They also suggest the banning of all social services to those who cannot prove legal residency. They suggest any person suspected of being an illegal immigrant to have a full background check performed by local police, and have them detained if illegal status is verified. Ultimately, they want every single border closed, and every undocumented worker deported.

These ramblings have gained a lot of strength as of late, particularly in the counties of Fairfax, Loudoun, and Prince William of Northern Virginia. Loudoun and Prince William have already passed measures banning social services to anyone who is of illegal status, and Prince William County has enacted 287(g), and required police to perform background checks on anybody of "reasonable suspicion" of being undocumented. It even allowed residents to sue the county for any public department they thought provided services to illegal immigrants. Prince William’s resolution has received much controversy from not only the Hispanic immigrant community, but from the Virginia working class in general, with as much as 10,000 people turning out at a time to contest the resolution, causing many stipulations to be removed, most notably that residents could no longer sue, and that background checks would be limited to crimes, (although even routine traffic stops in Prince William still take 3-4 hours as records are checked).

The town of Herndon in Fairfax County has long been a heated site of immigration debate, with armed Minutemen showing up on the streets to confront day laborers just trying to earn a day’s pay. Shortly thereafter, the town passed a resolution banning street side solicitation, including looking for jobs, and set up a day laborers center, which was again the site of confrontational protests. In the last few months, the center was closed down and the resolution overturned, and the fight has again returned to the streets of Herndon.

But do all these anti-illegal immigrant groups and all this anti-illegal immigrant hype hold up to any scrutiny? Do undocumented workers really do immense damage to society? Contrary to what Help Save Virginia and Help Save Maryland would like you to think, illegal immigrants do, in fact, pay taxes. Everything they purchase pays a sales tax. The Social Security Administration has a “Suspense file,” an account of income and property taxes that cannot be matched to a name or Social Security number (in other words, taxes paid by the undocumented) growing rapidly. These taxes have been estimated at anywhere from $90-140 billion a year. Immigrants make up a larger percentage of the workforce than they represent in the overall population, 12.4% as compared to 11.5%, and while paying at least $90 billion in taxes, only receive $5 billion a year in benefits.

Do they really burden our school system? Help Save Loudoun (a subsidiary group of Help Save Virginia, based in Loudoun County) would have you believe that each illegal immigrant costs our school systems approximately $13,000 per child per year. But in reality, even their solution of deporting all illegal immigrants would not lessen that cost. Regardless of individual students, school systems still require bus transportation systems, buildings, heating, cooling, ventilation, and electrical systems for those buildings, that compose the majority of the school system budgets. These costs are independent of the number of students, and must be paid regardless of how many students are present. Even teacher costs must be attributed over masses of students. It’s not difficult to see that the majority of that cost would still exist whether or not an illegal immigrant is present, and the burden they place on the school system is arbitrary at best.

These groups will suggest that immigrants drive down property values, raise crime rates, and ruin our communities. However, these ideas are nothing more than the same arguments presented against the poor and working class communities in any city in America, especially areas where whites are in the minority. It’s a sign of class division and poverty, not immigration status. Rather than being a legitimate argument against immigration, it is nothing more than rehashing the same old case for gentrification.

In countless other examples, a simple look at reality debunks the anti-illegal hype. So-called “pro-enforcement” standpoints simply do not hold up to scrutiny. When the financial and social “arguments” against illegal immigration are clearly fabricated rhetoric, what could the real agenda be? The answer can be found quite simply within the statements of those behind it. Sue Fleming, a member of Help Save Manassas (a Prince William branch of Help Save Virginia) has said that “If we turn our heads and permit illegal entry into our country without making any effort or identification, we are saying our language, our culture, our Constitution, our neighborhoods and our flag are inconsequential.” When we realize that the Constitution itself makes no mention of immigration policy, that option is ruled out immediately. Left are our language, our culture, our neighborhoods, and our flag. VA resident Chris King claims he’s “tired of pressing ‘1’ for English” on the phone. So often we hear outrage because “they don’t even try to learn our language!” when, in fact, an overwhelming majority (75%) of undocumented immigrants learn English within a few years, and the demand for classes to learn have far exceeded the supply.

Now it’s down to our flag, our culture, and our neighborhoods. They feel that foreigners will defile their culture and ruin their homes, much like the wealthy folks from up the hill say about those in the ghetto. This paints a brand new light on the anti-illegal camp: racism and hatred of the poor and working class. Despite Prince William’s claim that their resolution is not a racist one, the very fact that they call for anyone of “reasonable suspicion” to have their immigration status checked with even a speeding ticket displays bigotry for all to see. What defines “reasonable suspicion?” The fact that countless white undocumented immigrants live virtually without hassle, yet even legal Hispanic and Middle Eastern workers get harassed, demonstrates the criterion: skin color and economic status.

Why else would a group of wealthy, upper class Anglo conservatives demand policies that, in fact, would create and even greater tax burden on workers? Why else would they allow court costs and police shifts to dramatically increase? Why would they be willing to burden the public with new detention centers, all of which cost taxpaying workers a fortune? They don’t like hearing somebody else’s language or helping the underprivileged. It’s that simple.

It’s time for all of us, as workers, to recognize the plain and simple truth: “illegal” or not, we are all human beings, we all have needs, and immigrants face the same struggles as us: a boss who seeks to exploit us, and a wealthy few who seek to control us. Regardless of who we are, or where we’re from, we are workers. Its time to stop griping about immigrants “taking our jobs,” “destroying our language,” or “destroying our culture,” realize such vitriol is nothing more than a lie, and join with the immigrant community in struggle. We must recognize anti-immigrant policy, and anti-immigrant lies, do nothing but divide the working class, and if we seek any realistic gain, such divisions must be erased.



From "The Insubordinate", Issue #1