During the summer after my 1L year, I worked on a criminal case in Manassas, Va., and part of my job involved poring over news articles, letters, and blogs, searching for incendiary comments about illegal immigrants. Such comments were not hard to find. After decades as a sleepy, distant suburb of Washington D.C., Manassas — located about 30 miles from the Capitol — and the rest of Prince William County had turned into one of the fastest-growing counties in the nation. The demand for cheap housing labor had brought thousands of Hispanic immigrants to the area so that by 2008, the group comprised nearly 20 percent of Prince William County's population.
Change that quick does not come without conflict. The new film, "9500 Liberty," beautifully details the battle waged between "Help Save Manassas," a grassroots anti-immigration group, and the immigrants and their allies in the community over the span of several years. The film follows the actions of the Prince William County Board of Supervisors, which due to pressure from Help Save Manasssas, enacted one of the most stringent anti-immigration policies in the nation.
Last night one of the filmmakers of "9500 Liberty," Eric Byler, came to William & Mary for a screening of this outstanding documentary. Byler and his girlfriend/co-documentarian, Annabel Park, are also co-founders of Coffee Party USA, a movement formed in response to the often incendiary antics of the Tea Party. The Coffee Party has nearly 200,000 fans on Facebook, and I've heard Annabel on the Washington D.C. NPR station and seen her on CNN. Last month, the Coffee Party held meetings in 44 states, with an aim toward introducing civility into our political discourse. In her interview on NPR, Annabel spoke of the common grounds (NPR's pun, not mine) the Coffee Party shares with the Tea Party — both loathe corporate influence in government. But unlike the Tea Party, the Coffee Party believes that government has a significant and perhaps even a positive role to play, if we the people will only get involved in it.
The film's website does not say when "9500 Liberty" will be available, but last night a professor of immigration studies at W&M said that she had seen many movies on this issue, and this one was "fantastic." I agree. Check out the trailer here.