Tags: Lawrenceville | Virginia | federal complaint | housing discrimination | undocumented immigrants

Va. Town Hit With Federal Complaint Over Undocumented Immigrant Housing Plan

By    |   Monday, 29 Sep 2014 10:28 AM

A fair housing group and a private, historically black college have jointly filed a federal complaint against the town of Lawrenceville, Virginia, the Brunswick County government and its sheriff, alleging illegal discrimination after a plan to house undocumented immigrant children in college dormitories was scuttled in the wake of protests.

On Sept. 25, Housing Opportunities Made Equal of Virginia, Inc. (HOME), and the Saint Paul's College filed a complaint with the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) asserting that the rights of participants of the Unaccompanied Alien Children's (UAC) program were denied equal housing opportunity by the governments of Lawrenceville and Brunswick County, as well as by Brunswick County Sheriff Brian Robert, according to a press release announcing the complaint.

“From our perspective, a private college had a great opportunity to get out of debt and keep its doors open by housing immigrant refugee children. They made a deal with the federal government and after the local government officials got wind of the deal, they instigated a backlash about the prospect of having Central American people in their community,” said Helen Hardiman, fair housing director for HOME, told The Richmond Times-Dispatch.

HOME's Hardiman says documents obtained by the group under the Freedom of Information Act show that officials of the town of Lawrenceville and Brunswick County orchestrated and implemented a plan to block the deal, according to The Washington
Times
.

“The causation, if you look at the time line, it’s so clear they were behind the backlash, and so our position is they were responsible for that discrimination,” she told The Washington Times.

Hardiman believes local officials lacked jurisdiction to intervene because St. Paul’s was already zoned to be able to house the children.

The group also filed a civil rights discrimination complaint against the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) alleging the department failed to honor its contract with Saint Paul’s, which entered into an agreement to house the children in June.

They claim that Brunswick County Sheriff Brian Roberts' comment that there is a "negative perception of gang violence" concerning the immigrants "coming from Central America” constituted discrimination because it identified their nation of origin.

After losing its accreditation in 2012, and due to financial straits, the college was forced to close its doors on June 30, 2013, according to Diverse Education.

The college entered into an agreement with HHS in June that would have paid Saint Paul’s $160,000 a month to care for up to 500 Central American refugee children.

According to the Department of Homeland Security, more than 66,000 immigrants were apprehended at the border since the start of the budget year in October, a majority of whom traveled from Central America.

However, last week The Wall Street Journal reported that 70 percent of those who entered illegally and were released by U.S. authorities have subsequently failed to report to immigration offices as required.

The lack of a strategic plan at the Federal level has left many local and state governments to act on their own to handle illegal immigrants in their communities. Some have reached out to the immigrants, while others have taken preemptive action to prevent the undocumented children from having access to public services.

In Texas, the League City Council voted 6-2 in July to approve a resolution that would prohibit city departments from cooperating with federal directives or requests to process or house undocumented immigrants, according to The Houston Chronicle.

However, other towns and cities, have reached out to the undocumented children. In Bay City, Michigan last week, the City Commission approved a resolution of support for its plan to welcome 24 undocumented immigrant children from Central America, The Bay City Times reported.

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A fair housing group and a college have jointly filed a federal complaint against the town of Lawrenceville, Virginia, , alleging illegal discrimination after a plan to house undocumented immigrant children in college dormitories was scuttled in the wake of protests.
Lawrenceville, Virginia, federal complaint, housing discrimination, undocumented immigrants
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2014-28-29
Monday, 29 Sep 2014 10:28 AM
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