The arrest of 24 Latino day laborers looking for work outside a 7-Eleven in Woodbridge was intended as a crackdown on loitering, Prince William County police say. The charge, they noted, carries only a $100 fine.
But the penalty for many ended up being more severe: Eleven of the workers could not prove their identity and were transferred to federal custody. They have been put in an adult detention center in Manassas and face deportation.
Immigration advocates and officials from other jurisdictions say the mass roundup last week is fracturing the fragile trust between local law enforcement agencies and immigrants. The incident may discourage immigrants from reporting crimes or working with detectives, they said, at a time when millions of dollars are being spent to combat a growing gang problem.
“Women are being harassed, there’s urinating in public behind the 7-Eleven, there’s trash all over the place,” he said. “This was a community maintenance issue. It had nothing to do with immigration.”