Latina Lista: News from the Latinx perspective > Columns & Features > Guest Voz > Guest Voz: Prince William County Immigrant Rights Advocate reflects on the Christmas plight of undocumented immigrants

Guest Voz: Prince William County Immigrant Rights Advocate reflects on the Christmas plight of undocumented immigrants

LatinaLista — John Steinbach is the Community Outreach Coordinator for Woodbridge Workers Committee and Mexicanos Sin Fronteras in Prince William County, Virginia. Both organizations that help immigrants, or at least the immigrants that have not been driven off by the region’s punitive anti-immigration measures.

John Steinbach shares time with three Mixteca Indians who were rescued from forced labor in two Chinese restaurants.
Steinbach shares with Latina Lista readers not only what life is like for these immigrants who are under siege in his community but what life is like for immigrant advocates like himself and his colleagues who walk a thin line between following their conscience and respecting the law.
While Steinbach and his colleagues do it as a labor of love, and prove it every day by donating their own money to help fund the operations, more money is needed to meet the rising needs of a people who are forced into the shadows without a viable or dependable means to support themselves.
For that reason, Latina Lista invited John Steinbach to share with us what life is like for him and the immigrant community of Prince William County and to offer Latina Lista readers the opportunity to make a difference in these immigrants’ lives by donating to help Steinbach and his colleagues continue their work (at the end of Steinbach’s post is a partial listing of the support services offered by his organization).
Checks can be made payable to Woodbridge Workers Committee (tax deductible) or Mexicanos Sin Fronteras (non-tax deductible organizing work). For any questions, email John Steinbach
Contributions may be sent to:
C/O Woodbridge Workers Committee/Mexicanos Sin Fronteras,
PO Box K
Woodbridge, VA 22194.

Last winter, the Prince William Board of Supervisors unanimously passed an anti-immigrant resolution giving police draconian powers to arrest anyone suspected of lacking residency documents.
As predicted, in a county where over 25% of residents are immigrants, overwhelmingly Latino, rampant police profiling has been reported, and an entire community remains terrorized and traumatized.
In the aftermath of the Resolution’s passage, Mexicanos Sin Fronteras and Woodbridge Workers Committee (WWC) are still dealing on a daily basis with the fallout. Every day, we receive desperate calls on our emergency hotline from those affected — detainees held for months as prisoners after ICE raids, immigrant women afraid to report domestic abuse, day laborers seeking lawyers to help recover unpaid wages, victims of human trafficking (slavery) pleading to be rescued, reports of police profiling and other racist harassment, and numerous other, often heartbreaking stories.
We have been working under enormous pressure in a radically polarized political atmosphere. To help understand just how poisonous the environment is in which we work, the video testimony of one of the leading anti-immigrant critics in Prince William County shows it all. A person, who unbelievably, was appointed to the County Planning Commission.
Yet while we try to be the best Americans we know how to be in helping our fellow man, woman and child, we do it despite the threats, personal attacks, and intimidation, not just from the Minutemen, but also our locally elected public officials.

The mission of the Woodbridge Workers Committee (El Comité de Trabajadores de Woodbridge) is to provide employment support, identification cards, English classes, legal and income recovery services, food and clothing distributions, cultural opportunities, and community outreach for immigrant day laborers and their communities living along the Route One corridor in Woodbridge, Virginia.
As a result, we are empowering them in their struggle to obtain justice, and dignity. We are an all-volunteer organization with most of our small budget coming from the immigrant community and local supporters.
Thus far, the winter here in northern Virginia has been especially brutal. Last Sunday, on the streets of Woodbridge and Manassas, the temperature was in the 20s, with the wind gusting to more than 40 mph.
Despite this extreme weather, nearly 200 men were huddled outside the 7-11s desperately seeking work. Many told us that they hadn’t worked in weeks and when they finally found some, their employers refused to pay them.
Many talked about losing their homes and going hungry. About a dozen volunteers for Woodbridge Workers Committee and Mexicanos Sin Fronteras braved the cold that day, purchasing, packing and distributing bundles of food.
Our work has taken on more urgency after receiving reports that some local nonprofits are refusing to provide services to those immigrants unable to prove legal residency.
It has been a devastating human, economic and social toll on the Prince William County immigrant community because of the anti-immigrant xenophobia that has taken hold of the hearts of some people — and it’s only getting worse.
It will take more resources to combat the growing needs of this community and we need your help.
Our ongoing work with the immigrant community is done entirely by volunteers and the bulk of our budget comes out of our own thin pockets. Not to mention, there are ongoing expenses that require the resources of the greater community.
For example, although WWC is a 501c-3 nonprofit organization and member of the National Capital Area Food Bank, it still costs about $800 each time we provide a food bundle for 200 workers. The goal is to do a bi-weekly distribution throughout winter. To even provide just a warm cap, gloves and socks, in addition to any winter coats we collect, also costs us — a little over $10 for each worker.
We know this economy is tight and extra money is hard to part with these days, but we also know that without our help the untold suffering of countless Prince William County immigrants will only get worse — and that is too heavy a burden to bear on anyone’s conscience.

The following is a partial list of all the work Mexicanos Sin Fronteras and Woodbridge Workers Committee do on behalf of immigrant communities:
Help coordinate struggling immigrant communities from the Shenandoah Valley to Delaware
Hosted the first national meeting of The Alianza Nacional de Comunidades Latinoamericanas y del Caribe ( NALACC) this November
Help plan for the first Virginia People’s Assembly on January 10, 2009
Continue our work in the Virginia Immigrant People’s Coalition
Participate in the National Capitol Immigrant Coalition.

In Prince William County
Coordinate legal challenges to the immigrant scapegoating
Continue our work consulting with the community
Conduct “Know Your Rights” workshops with local volunteer lawyers
Assist in conducting mortgage foreclosure workshops with local housing groups
Continue our cultural support work with the burgeoning Spanish-speaking Indigenous community
Provide English as a Second Language lessons every Monday evening to several dozen students
Organize food and clothing distributions for the Woodbridge day laborers
Respond to the ICE raids, especially desperate calls from prisoners (and their families) incarcerated at the Peidmont ICE facility in Farmville, VA
Operate our MSF Emergency Hotline (Volunteers respond to scores of emergency calls each week)
Work with and educate the broader community about issues facing the immigrant community
Coordinate volunteer legal support for victims of discrimination.

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  • Grandma
    December 12, 2008 at 7:41 pm

    Isn’t this aiding and abetting which is also a crime? Why is it okay for illegals to sneak across our borders, use false documents to get jobs but when they get caught committing these crimes, it’s considered a violation of their rights? They have no rights, they’re illegal for God’s sake. And the use of “immigrants” in this article is a joke. They’re illegal immigrants. Big difference.

  • Michaela
    December 13, 2008 at 1:07 am

    That’s right, as ILLEGAL immigrants, i.e., criminal law breakers, they are NOT entitled to any rights under the Constitution of the United States of America. LEGAL immigrants however are fully entitled, a difference that many seem to “conveniently” overlook!

  • Texano78704
    December 13, 2008 at 1:03 pm

    ¡Dios santo, abuelita! Undocumented workers have no rights? Which law is that? And since you are bringing God into this… aren’t all men created in his image?
    I wonder what the Bible says about the treatment of aliens. Maybe we could check out Exodus 22 or Leviticus 19. I know Leviticus is a favorite book with the Pick and Choose Christiansâ„¢ since there are a lot of laws in the book that they insist on observing while forgetting that other laws in there exist.
    This is just another example of anti-immigrant behavior…

  • Michaela
    December 13, 2008 at 1:03 pm

    It is aiding and abetting and these organizations will be reported.

  • Texano78704
    December 14, 2008 at 3:48 pm

    Uh, Michaela, even “criminal law breakers” are entitled to rights under the US Constitution. Ever heard of the phrase “Miranda rights?”
    And since you brought up the Constitution, please tell us where in that document we can find the part that excludes “ILLEGAL immigrants” from the rights stated in the Bill of Rights.

  • Michaela
    December 14, 2008 at 6:09 pm

    “Dios santo, abuelita! Undocumented workers have no rights? Which law is that? And since you are bringing God into this… aren’t all men created in his image?

  • Sandra
    December 14, 2008 at 9:55 pm

    Anti-“immigrant” behavior? They aren’t immigrants. They are illegal aliens. As long as we are going to spout the teachings of the Bible, how about the Ten Commandments? For example, “Thou shalt not steal”. They are stealing from the American people in so many ways.

  • Texano78704
    December 15, 2008 at 12:39 pm

    So Michaela dropped her “Constitution” argument and picks up the Bible. Using her logic, I imagine that she considers the American Revolution a holy abomination.
    And if we examine closely the subject of “stealing,” I am sure we will find that it is the employers that are doing most of the stealing, not the undocumented workers. I believe it was that guy from Nazareth who told us that “the worker deserves his pay.”

  • Michaela
    December 15, 2008 at 2:35 pm

    Texano78704 :
    And since you brought up the Constitution, please tell us where in that document we can find the part that excludes “ILLEGAL immigrants” from the rights stated in the Bill of Rights.
    You have to be kidding me. Well, I would be more interested in testing YOUR knowledge. Why don’t YOU tell ME where in the U.S. Constitution it says that “Illegal” immigrants have all the rights and privileges given to “Citizens” of the U.S.

  • Liquidmicro
    December 15, 2008 at 10:15 pm

    For the Constitution, might I suggest looking at the Pre-amble. Illegal Aliens have NO Rights granted to them by our Constitution. They have rights granted to them, if they are charged with an ‘infamous crime’, i.e. misdemeanor or felony charges, through the Charter of the UN which was drafted based on our Constitution. The right granted is equated to our 5th and 6th Amendments.
    “We the People of the United States of America, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”
    There is something about these words that denies all but US Citizens the full Rights of the US Constitution: to ourselves and our Posterity
    LPR’s do have some rights granted under our Constitution, but even they do not get full rights until they become Citizens.
    So if you are going to use the Constitution, use it in its context, not out of it. Its as bad as those that try to equate the Statue of Liberty to the plight of the Lazarus poem.

  • Texano78704
    December 16, 2008 at 8:36 am

    Why don’t YOU tell ME where in the U.S. Constitution it says that “Illegal” immigrants have all the rights and privileges given to “Citizens” of the U.S.
    I asked the question why someone thought that undocumented workers had no rights. They do have certain rights in this country, whether or not those promoters of despotism choose to believe it or not.
    … the Bill of Rights applies to everyone, even illegal immigrants. So an immigrant, legal or illegal, prosecuted under the criminal code has the right to due process, a speedy and public trial, and other rights protected by the Fifth and Sixth Amendments.
    Okay, your turn Michaela. Please present the totalitarian counter-view.

  • Sandra
    December 16, 2008 at 1:21 pm

    Illegal aliens use taypayer benefits such as healthcare and education. Since they aren’t citizens, they are stealing these benefits. What little taxes they pay doesn’t cover the costs of the benefits that they steal. They also steal jobs from Americans by offering to do jobs at a cheaper wage than an American when they have no right to even be in this country. I have never downplayed the greedy employer’s role in all of this either. At least I admit to two guilty parties. You only want to admit to one and give the illegals a pass, Texano.

  • Liquidmicro
    December 16, 2008 at 1:34 pm

    From your Slate link:
    “So an immigrant, legal or illegal, prosecuted under the criminal code has the right to due process, a speedy and public trial, and other rights protected by the Fifth and Sixth Amendments.”
    This statement stands out: “prosecuted under the criminal code”, which is the only time they are granted any Rights, otherwise they have NO RIGHTS. The Charter of the UN is what gives them the Rights, however as I have said it is not our Constitution that grants them this, it is the UN’s equivalent to our Constitution. The equating to our Constitution is the misinterpretation by those that do not understand the powers and to whom these documents refer.

  • Sandra
    December 16, 2008 at 9:31 pm
    Tuesday, 16 December 2008
    Undocumented residents put severe strain on county coffers
    Figures from the Department of Public Social Services show that children of illegal aliens in Los Angeles County collected over $20 million in welfare and over $19 million in food stamps in October 2008 — an increase of $4 million from the previous month, announced Los Angeles County Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich.
    Annually the cost of illegal immigration to Los Angeles County taxpayers exceeds over one billion dollars, which includes $220 million for public safety, $400 million for healthcare, and $480 million in welfare and food stamps allocations. Twenty-five percent of the County’s total allotment of welfare and food stamps benefits goes directly to the children of illegal aliens born in the United States.
    “Illegal immigration continues to have a devastating impact on Los Angeles County taxpayers,” said Antonovich. “The total cost for illegal immigrants to County taxpayers exceeds $1 billion a year – not including the millions of dollars for education.

  • laura
    December 16, 2008 at 10:22 pm

    The strong emotions expressed by our friends “Michaela”, “Sandra”, “Grandma” etc., in their many capital letters and exclamation marks, always intrigue me. They give the impression that significant parts of their lives are going in the wrong direction, since they are permanently agitated.
    Permanent agitation is per se not surprising these days, because the implosion of the country is having devastating effects on many peoples’ lives. We have been robbed blind by Wall Street bankers and mortgage sharks who have blown up our economy, and who, upon receiving $700 billion taxpayers’ money, pay themselves out more bonuses and pay their shareholders more dividends.
    $700 billion is $700,000,000,000.
    This money is missing from the hospitals, schools, and bank accounts of average Americans. Not to mention the $1,000,000,000,000 that is missing from our country due to having been spent in Iraq – so far.
    Where do “Michaela” and our other friends come into this picture?
    They are suffering the consequences of the looting of this country by the super-rich – by the Bush administration and its friends. But they have decided – unconsciously no doubt – that the actual robbers of this country are out of their reach. They might even retaliate if attacked. Perhaps our anti-immigrant friends even admire these robbers. Maybe they aspire to be like them.
    So where to release the pent-up frustration and anger about the overspent credit card, the huge co=pay at the doctor’s office, the 9 hour wait in the emergency room, the drop in value of the house?
    Conveniently, there are people around who cannot retaliate. They cannot even speak up. They are identifiable by their skin color and language. They are not blond… Let’s beat up on them. We’ll call them “illegals,” dehumanize them, defend their murderers, and feel better about ourselves for a moment.
    It is the coward’s emotional release.
    Yes, my friends, “Michaela”, “Sandra”, “Grandma” et al., I am thinking of you.

  • Sandra
    December 17, 2008 at 9:40 am

    My life is just fine, thank you. I have no financial or other personal problems. I am semi-retired and living the good life. The source of my agitation is seeing our government allow an illegal invasion of our country and therefore jeopardizing the future of my children and grandchildren.
    What childish and untruthful remarks you make refering to skin color and hair color. I don’t care what color or ethicity a CITIZEN of this country is, nor do most Americans but race sure plays a huge role with you.
    First of all, your side are the ones who make this about race! We are just reacting to your own ethnocentrism and racism. My God, your side comes right out and tells us with all hostility that your ethnic group are coming here to “take over.” Surely that merits a couple of blinks of an eyelid from us! Your side thinks because this is an “unarmed” invasion that it makes a difference. The end results are still the same!
    Secondly, who is “demonizing” “immigrants”? Facts that one doesn’t want to hear is not “demonizing.” It is merely speaking the truth that some do not want made common knowledge because it doesn’t suit their agenda. They call it “demonizing” to try to shut every one up and keep them from speaking the truth. They believe if they call something a “lie” that makes it so because they don’t like the truth.
    And thirdly, who has defended any murderers? If anything, that description fits the pro-illegals as they are defending illegals, some of whom have committed heinous crimes against American citizens of ALL ethnicities, races, genders. So when they point their boney little fingers, they will find more pointing back at them!

  • Texano78704
    December 17, 2008 at 9:56 am

    Ow! Not much I can add to what Laura said.

  • Challis
    December 17, 2008 at 11:55 am

    Here in my state (Arkansas)
    -referencing the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation study(A Profile of Immigrants in Arkansas, April 2007)-
    *Immigrants added $3 billion to the Arkansas economy in 2004. (Vol. 2, pg. 5)
    *Our immigrant community used $237 million in state services (mostly educational and health services) in 2004 but paid $257 million in taxes resulting in a surplus to the state budget of almost $20 million. (Vol. 2, pg. 17)
    *Immigrant spending has created 23,100 jobs that are held primarily by Arkansans born in the United States.

  • Michaela
    December 17, 2008 at 5:44 pm

    Laura, what a stupid post you just made. Accusatory and ignorant. Don’t tell me what I feel.

  • Sandra
    December 20, 2008 at 8:50 am

    I can provide quite the opposite statistics to what you are claiming and it would be from government sources and it would be about illegal aliens, not legal immigrsnts. That is your clue. The statistics on illegal aliens and legal immigrants need to be separated to get a clear and factual picture.

  • Michaela
    December 20, 2008 at 6:56 pm

    I agree Sandra and it does a disservice to Legal Hispanic immigrants to dump them in with the ILLEGAL Hispanics.

  • Challis
    December 22, 2008 at 11:58 am

    You say “I can” but you don’t.
    The problem in seperating the statistics is that it is extremely hard to do so, it is hard to count someone who doesn’t want to be counted.
    So, that is why the non-government sponsored study that I referenced has those numbers.
    I am making an assumption that you think illegal aliens do not contribute monitarily to our government by paying taxes. That is actually not true.
    Lazy Americans are much more of a drain on our system than illegal aliens.
    Illegal aliens can’t collect welfare, or Social Security and are even sometimes turned away from medical institutions.
    So I think-with my numbers to back it up- that it is quite plausable that, yes ILLEGAL, aliens are contributing more to our economy than they are taking, and certianly more than you and others would like to admit.

  • Sandra
    December 23, 2008 at 9:29 am

    I will dig up those government statitics. I never said that illegals don’t pay any taxes. What the government study will prove is that illegals don’t pay in enough taxes to cover their social costs. Lazy Americans are also a drain on us but your statement that they are more of a drain aren’t backed up by any stats and besides we have to deal with them because they are citizens. We shouldn’t have to deal with the drain that illegals put on us.
    Illegal aliens do collect welfare and other taxpayer benefits thru their citizen children. If they weren’t here in the first place, the births wouldn’t have occured and the instant birthright citizenship clause needs to be interpreted correctly. It was not meant for every Mary, Jane or Maria who comes here illegally and gives birth to grant instant birthright citizenship to their children.

  • Carlos Saldias
    September 26, 2009 at 9:45 pm

    Lo unico que se es que, este pais comenzo con el esfuerzo y trabajo duro de IMIGRANTES y todos ILEGALES del otro lado de nuestro continente. Sin permiso comenzaron a matar, robar y destruir. Eso los hace, imigrantes europeos ilegales y criminales. Por consiguiente, estamos viviendo bajo la cosntitucion que es el resultado de imigrantes ilegales criminales de europa para subsanar sus crimenes no resueltos?. Por si no sabian, las leyes de USA estan todavia apoyando la emigracion legal de europeos a este pais, tratando de cerrar las puertas a los que siempre estuvimos aqui. De una manera sofisticada, siguen los europeos invadiendo nuestro continente con la ayuda de racistas en el govierno Americano. Solucion: Comenzar a diluir el racismos (enfermedad original del hombre calificado como “blanco” en su mayoria), por medio de conciencia humana y detectando a los corruptos que mercadean con las visas en nuestros paises. Mantener los idiomas originales de cada pais y apagar el ingles al nivel de español para practicar iguladad al menos aqui en los EEUU. Si matan nuestro idioma, habran matado nuestras naciones. O no hicieron eso en los tiempos de espadas y cabalos destripando y decapitando a sus enemigos con cu cochina cultura de las guerritas?. Eso lo trajeron de alla. No es de aqui. Y este idioma que estas leyendo, tambien fue traido del otro lado..o no sabias?

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