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Incident at Manassas, VA Where are the People?

February 26, 2009

February 23, 2009         NPR Radio All Things Considered  reports that a one out of every ten homes in Manassas, Virginia have been foreclosed upon, making Manassas the center of the foreclosure crises.  The city is now experiencing a severe budget crises due to decreased tax revenues because of home values that have dropped so sharply it is hard to comprehend.


Photo by isisDC
Photo by isisDC

             What happened?           

             Not so long ago, Manassas was a quiet little town on the end of the Washington D.C. metro line. Then came the D.C. area building boom, and along with it came the workers, all of them needing a place to settle, and they chose Manassas. Good schools, affordable housing, safe community. Why not?



So they came. They began to rent apartments and purchase homes.  They opened businesses to serve the workers. They paid their taxes.

 An explosion of new home developments came to Manassas and Prince William County as workers began to purchase homes with their new found wealth. This created more jobs, more businesses, and more tax revenues for the city and county.

As has so often been done in the past, the people proudly brought their own cultures with them to share and incorporate into “The Melting Pot”.  Families were close and spent their “off time” together. They shopped in the local stores and sent money back home to help their less fortunate relatives.

   In a rapid growth region, many of the new arrivals are single men, looking for Day Labor. They hang out in particular locations in the morning, drinking their coffee, while waiting for work to be offerred. The kind leadership of Manassas took note when it happened in their city, and thought it would be good to build these men a shelter so they could be protected from the elements. And so they did.

          What happened in response was the beginning of a National Episode of Shame. 

A group of agitators known as “Help Save Virginia” came to town. They were well trained in how to use verses from the Christian Bible in order to make the workers and their families appear dangerous. They pointed out that the single men brought problems with them.

 Yes, there were problems with overcrowding. Yes, there were problems with the types of people who follow large groups of single men. But there are solutions to these problems, as any major American city knows. All the town leaders would have had to do was ask for advice.

But the men from “Help Save Virginia” worked hard and fast. The townspeople were not accustomed to these new folks and the issues involved in living in a fast growing region. So “Help Save Virginia” played on the fears of the local people  . They told the people the “new folks” would rape their daughters, and have sex in the middle of the street. They told them the new people have no right to be in our country.  They said the new people do not love God. And they worked successfully to get their own men elected. There was nothing the new people could do, as many of them did not yet have the right to vote in an election. Sure, they ran some people for office, but it all happened so fast, and there was no time.

After the election, the new Board of Supervisors began to try to find ways to harrass the new people. They came up with a new set of rules for the county, rules that would make the immigrant’s life difficult. Preperations were made  for the Board of Supervisors to vote on the new rules. 

Many area churches rose to the call and declared all people to be equal. They joined forces with the Immigrant Rights groups who had banded together to defend the people.

Manassas, Virginia and Prince William County became the spotlight of national and international attention.In a nearly all night session in which a few of the townspeople came to speak for the new rules, and thousands upon thousands of people came to speak against the new rules, the Board of Supervisors passed the new rules.

 The reign of terror began. Children were denied access to schools and health care. Men were pulled over at every opportunity. There  were more protests from the new people. The Chief of Police protested. He was ordered to perform his job. Lawyers came to try to help the new people. Outside groups came to try to help. 

The city of Alexandria and other neighboring communities began to make preparations to receive the refugees.

The people began to flee. They left behind  their homes and businesses, seeking refuge from the harassment, until today, such a large number of homes have been walked away from, the county is now in crises. And still they are fleeing, fighting back when possible, but still being harassed. 

 Will the leadership be able to stop the crises? It’s doubtful.

 Real estate investors are now buying the foreclosed homes at less than one third of their original value and turning the homes into low cost rentals. As landlords do not typically do the same quality of maintenance as a homeowner would, the county will see a further decline in home values.   As the low cost rentals eventually begin to occupy, the county will once again see an increase in the need for schools and services, but this time, because of lower property values, the money will not be there. As the renters increase, the ability of a first time homebuyer to purchase one of these homes will diminish, as banks do not make loans in neighborhoods where there are too many renters.

Can things be turned around?  There’s always the next election.
© All rights reserved                                                 Daniel Curran

My newest post, Face of a Shadow, will be up Wednesday, March 4,2009



One Comment leave one →
  1. March 11, 2009 2:32 pm

    I see we have the same story to tell, only mine was shorter. What is amazing to me is that the hate for the ilegal immigrants is so great that we seem to be wasting our breath (ink?). I really think Americans are being punished for being so heartless! Waiting for another election won’t help because it is hopeless.

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