Correction to This Article
A Feb. 11 Metro article about anti-illegal-immigration groups seeking to start chapters in the Manassas area misstated the number of people applying for work at the Herndon Official Workers Center. An average of 130 workers per day sign up.

As Groups Battling Illegal Immigration Bud, They Find Criticism and Support

Those rallying against the Minutemen's efforts, such as these protesters last year, say the creation of anti-immigration groups creates an
Those rallying against the Minutemen's efforts, such as these protesters last year, say the creation of anti-immigration groups creates an "anti-Hispanic community." (By Alex Wong -- Getty Images)
By Christy Goodman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, February 11, 2007

Grass-roots groups that aim to rid communities of illegal immigrants are establishing roots in Prince William County, a response to the area's changing population that some say incites hatred.

Members of the Virginia chapter of the Minuteman Civil Defense Corps and HelpSaveVirginia are planning to meet with about 15 "leadership types" in hopes of starting a Manassas area chapter, said the meeting's coordinator, Greg Letiecq.

"Folks out there are here illegally. That is wrong," Letiecq said. "And they should go back to their country and come into the United States legally, so everything is out in the open and they respect the rule of law."

The move comes as Prince William is asking the federal government to reimburse $3 million the county estimates it has spent providing services to illegal immigrants. Meanwhile, Manassas is facing several lawsuits and is being investigated by the U.S. Department of Justice regarding complaints the city illegally targeted Hispanic residents while enforcing zoning laws.

The prospect of a local chapter of the Minutemen doesn't sit well with some area Hispanic leaders.

"It may not be the intent -- I don't know the intent of many of these people -- but I know the fact and rhetoric of their actions are creating a hostile environment for all people of color and all languages of Virginia regardless of their citizenship status," said Claire Guthrie GastaƱaga, a lobbyist representing the Virginia Coalition of Latino Organizations.

Similar organizations have had impact elsewhere in the region.

HelpSaveHerndon mobilized during May's town elections to support candidates who campaigned against illegal immigration. That election ousted Herndon's mayor and two Town Council members.

Virginia's chapter of the Minutemen began in Herndon and made news taking pictures of contractors hiring workers at the town's day-laborer site.

The Herndon Official Workers Center, operated by Reston Interfaith, has seen a consistent number of workers, said former Herndon mayor Michael O'Reilly. The center had an average of 130 workers sign up for jobs over the past five months, according to figures from Reston Interfaith.

"They took some pictures and held a press conference and said they turned over names [of contractors] to local, state and federal authorities. To my knowledge, nothing came of it," said O'Reilly, who called the groups "extreme."

The Minutemen aren't political extremists, said George Taplin, director of the Virginia chapter.

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