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Wednesday, June 19, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Virginia City Illegally Rounds Up| Latinos, Rights Center Claims

ALEXANDRIA, VA. (CN) - The Manassas City Public Schools are illegally providing students' records to the City of Manassas so the governmental entities and police can raid, evict and harass Latino residents at their homes, in the presence of TV cameras, in a successful, but unconstitutional, effort to rid Manassas of Hispanic residents, several citizens and the Equal Rights Center claim in Federal Court.

The defendants "have engaged in a campaign to target, discriminate against, and evict the City's Hispanic residents," the suit states. "Defendants assert that their discriminatory actions have been undertaken to promote health and safety and reduce 'overcrowding' in Manassas. In reality, Defendants' definition of 'overcrowding' has repeatedly changed and investigations purportedly performed to reduce overcrowding have in fact been used to curtail the growth of the City's Hispanic population. By the City's own records, a grossly disproportionate number of investigations have targeted Hispanics.

"Defendants' discriminatory actions are varied, widespread, and pervasive. City Defendants have enacted zoning provisions targeting Hispanic residents of the City for inspection and harassment. Inspections of Hispanic households are often Draconian, taking place at night with police officers and members of the media present and including interrogations of children, all against the backdrop of the threat of criminal prosecution. Many of these investigations originated from baseless and discriminatory complaints from anonymous City-run telephone and e-mail hotlines ('City Hotlines'). The presence of the City Hotlines has encouraged City residents and officials to target their Hispanic neighbors for inspection, providing City Defendants with another tool to illegally curb the City's Hispanic population. In other instances, City Defendants have coordinated with School Defendants to illegally obtain and use confidential student records to identify and target Hispanic records for inspection."

The plaintiffs claim the defendants have driven Hispanics out of Manassas with their illegal harassment, in violation of the state and federal constitutions. They demand an injunctions and compensatory and punitive damages. They are represented by lead counsel W. Parker Moore with Beveridge & Diamond of Washington, D.C. Also representing the plaintiffs is the Washington Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights & Urban Affairs. See complaint.

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