Tuesday, September 30, 2014

If your community does not wish to house illegal immigrants - you may now be sued. Nice.

“We want municipalities to know that they can’t step in and block housing opportunities for people based on their race color and national origin.”

Powerful words, right.  Words one could expect to hear from say a Federal Judge or from the enforcement arm of Housing and Urban Development, right?  Maybe something one would hear from an attorney with the Department of Justice. 

In this case the words were spoken by Ms. Helen O'Beirne Hardiman the Director of Fair Housing with Housing Opportunities Made Equal (HOME) of Virginia a 501(c)3 organization.  Ms. O'Beirne Hardiman is an attorney and has been an advocate for social justice for sometime.  In 2007 she fought with the Virginia Legislature in her role as the Coordinator for Virginia Partnership to Encourage Responsible Lending (VaPERL) an organization that battled the pay day loan epidemic.  Style Weekly wrote that, "Her work drawing attention to the ills of balloon-interest payday loans continues to resonate on editorial pages across the state. "We blew it up in the media," said Ms. O'Beirne Hardiman.  Her attention has now been turned to housing and "oh, and immigration (both legal and illegal) too, which O'Beirne Hardiman says is "turning into a housing issue," with localities trying to legislate against South and Central American immigrants by putting restraints on housing".  Which brings us to the quote at the beginning. 

Housing and should a municipality have input into individuals moving into their community. We live in a nation of laws and housing discrimination is never appropriate.  Except in this case it isn't that simple. 

Earlier in the year the Federal Government (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services) sought to enter into an agreement with Saint Paul's College (a historically black college in Lawrenceville (VA)) to "house minors who crossed the U.S.-Mexico border illegally."   The plan to use the 185 acre campus which closed in 2013 as a facility to house "hundreds of illegal immigrants"  (I believe the correct term is Illegal Alien) was met with  opposition from the residents of Lawrenceville, a town of 1,438 (2010 Census). 

In June DHHS held a forum for the community at Saint Paul's College to hear the concerns of the community.  Following that forum DHHS released a statement stating: “We have heard the concerns of many of the residents and leaders of Lawrenceville about the proposal to temporarily care for unaccompanied children at the now-closed Saint Paul’s College. We have taken this proposal off the table and will move on quickly to identify other sites to temporarily house these vulnerable children.” The decision by DHHS was seen as, "the right decision" by Harvard educated Senator Mark Warner (D)

With DHHS moving on and seeking another location, HOME and Saint Paul's College have come to believe that the illegal immigrants who would have been housed at Saint Paul's College and Saint Paul's College have suffered a loss and are seeking redress in court.  The complaint, per watchdog.org states (in part): "as a result of the town's the county, town and sheriff “orchestrated and implemented a plan to block the deal,” “Purported concerns by these individuals are grounded in false stereotypes about Latinos and reflect discrimination based on race, color, and/or national origin.”

Lawrenceville, as shown earlier, is a small town.  The population is less than 1,500 and the town is about 0.9 square miles.  There are approximately 640 acres in a mile.  The closed Saint Paul's College is 185 acres or about 30% of the total size of Lawrenceville.  Lawrenceville is in Brunswick County, which has a population of  17,343 residents (2010 Census) and a total land mass of 569 square miles.  It seems to be a pretty rural place famous for "Brunswick Stew".  The Brunswick County Sheriff's Department has a patrol staff of 14 (six of which are black officers).  There is an Investigations division with four officers (one is black), One canine officer (who is black) and two school resource officers (ethnicity unknown).  Not a big department.  The Lawrenceville PD has a total of six officers. 

So this small community is being accused of blocking a plan to house illegal immigrants because the community is bigoted against Latinos and that bigotry has damaged the illegal immigrants who could have been housed at Saint Paul's College by denying them housing in a discriminatory manner.  This is where I think it gets interesting and instead of rambling on I will just share the city-date demographics for Lawrenceville and Brunswick County

Lawrence is a majority minority community with a reasonably diverse community considering the population size. 

Brunswick County is also a majority minority community.  While I understand it is of course possible, I guess that I am still trying to wrap my mind around the fact that a minority majority community is being accused of discrimination based upon ethnicity because they do not wish to have illegal aliens brought into their community. 

I understand the reason a non-profit like HOME would file suit as they are seeking "social justice".  But why would Saint Paul's College file suit?  Oh, that's right, money. In a joint statement Saint Paul's College President Pete Stith said, “Because of this decision, St. Paul’s has been severely injured,” he said in the release. “The school would have received $160,000 a month in rent from the federal government. This project would have given St. Paul’s College the much-needed funding to complete necessary improvements to the campus and repay creditors.”

Is Pres. Stith's position that the next time a community bands together to stop a business venture they find unacceptable (say an oil pipeline for example) that the company denied an opportunity to receive a monthly income that would have allowed them to pay for improvements, staff and creditors ought to seek redress in the court of law? 

I can at least respect HOME's position because they are consistent in seeking social justice.  With Saint Paul's College, I see it as an amazingly self-serving desire to seek income from the American taxpayer for their own benefit (I know the argument that the illegals would be housed somewhere and someone would gain from it.  That does not mean the community should not have a voice as while Saint Paul's College would reap a great reward the community services (education, transportation, medical, social services and so on) would not be as equally "rewarded"). 

Even with the lawsuit, Ms. O’Beirne Hardiman is still holding out hope: “We would love, if it’s not too late, for HHS to reconsider the deal with St. Paul’s to house the children there,” O'Beirne Hardiman said. “The children at St. Paul’s have certainly been dramatically injured, and we would like to prevent further injury, if possible.”

I do wonder just how Ms. O'Beirne Hardiman will show that any person in America illegally was "dramatically injured" by a community exercising the rights they have to protest housing those illegal aliens within their community.  Honestly, I respect her position but greatly disagree.  There is no minor injury much less a dramatic one present. 


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