Recent lobbying by grass-roots organizations to force tougher enforcement of immigration laws in Prince William and Loudoun counties is inspiring similar groups to form in other Virginia localities and even across the state line in Maryland.
Residents concerned about the negative effects of illegal aliens recently formed Help Save Virginia Beach, the fourth chapter of the umbrella group Help Save Virginia.
Aubrey Stokes, founder of the flagship group Help Save Herndon, said concerned residents have contacted him from Annandale, Culpeper and Henrico County.
“Citizens can see they can make a difference,” Mr. Stokes said. “There’s the old saying: Think globally, act locally.”
Corey A. Stewart, chairman of the Prince William Board of County Supervisors, said the grass-roots efforts of Help Save Manassas were instrumental in drumming up support for a resolution county officials adopted July 10 that restricts public services for illegal aliens.
“The group played a very large role in the illegal immigration crackdown that the board is pursuing,” said Mr. Stewart, at-large Republican. “They played a very helpful role in providing some of the research for the measures that the board took and they were also effective at generating public interest and turnout.”
The resolution requires police officers to ask about immigration status in all arrests if there is probable cause to believe that a suspect has violated federal immigration law. The resolution also requires county staff to verify a person’s legal status before providing certain public services.
Loudoun Supervisor Eugene Delgaudio thanked Help Save Loudoun and Help Save Herndon after the Loudoun board adopted a similar resolution on July 17.
Mr. Delgaudio, Sterling District Republican who introduced the resolution, said the groups held public forums for residents, candidates and elected officials.
“They’ve been working on these issues for years,” he said. “They’ve done everything that a traditional, nonprofit educational group is supposed to do.”
Help Save Herndon helped organize a chapter in Maryland, which has scheduled a protest today at a taxpayer-funded day-labor center in Derwood.
Help Save Maryland founder Brad Botwin said he wants to remind Montgomery County Executive Isiah “Ike” Leggett that some county residents still oppose the center, which opened in April and is one of four operated by CASA of Maryland.
“I think this is the best way to show Mr. Leggett that we’re alive and kicking,” Mr. Botwin said. “Someone is speaking out — that’s the most important thing.”
Mr. Botwin said he and other opponents of the day-labor center have received little feedback from county and state officials.
Montgomery County spokesman Patrick Lacefield said Mr. Leggett, a Democrat, and county officials always have been open to discussions with residents on a variety of issues.
“The problem they have is basically we don’t agree with them — it’s not that we don’t talk to them or listen to them,” Mr. Lacefield said.
The center generated more than 700 jobs last month. There have been no reports of negative incidents involving the workers, he said, but in early May a deliberately set fire slightly damaged the trailer that houses the center.
Montgomery County’s population increased from 873,341 in 2000 to 932,131 in 2006, U.S. Census Bureau figures show. The Hispanic population increased from about 11.5 percent to 13.6 percent in the same period.
Prince William County’s population increased from 281,813 in 2000 to 357,503 in 2006, according to census figures. The Hispanic population nearly doubled during that period, from about 9.7 percent to 18 percent.
In Loudoun County, the population increased from 169,599 in 2000 to 268,817 in 2006. The Hispanic population increased from about 5.9 percent in 2000 to 9.3 percent in 2006, according to census data.
Help Save Herndon successfully lobbied for town police to become the first locality in the region to receive immigration-enforcement training under an agreement with the Department of Homeland Security. Officers completed training last month.
Local action is motivated in part by frustration with federal inaction on immigration reform and by the desire to make a difference in the local community, Mr. Stokes said.
“If you’re taking a bath and the tub starts to overflow, what are you going to do first: Turn off the water or grab a mop?” he asked. “Local communities — we’re the mop. If local communities cannot affect change at the border, which we cannot, most definitely we can start dealing with the consequences.”