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Story pick: Turning the lens on immigration


Local filmakers Annabel Park, Eric Byler,and Jeff Man record an interview with Reverend Ronald Boykin at his church in Manassas as part of their project, "9500 Liberty." Photo by Jahi Chikwendiu/The Washington Post

I was about a block from The Washington Post's Manassas office, walking fast to meet deadline, when a man in a white pick-up truck drove by, slowed down next to me and said, “Hola.” If it had been any other time, the Texan in me would have taken it as a friendly hello, a figurative tip of the hat. I would have smiled back.

But it was during the peak of the illegal-immigration crackdown in Prince William County, and instinct and the way the man in the passenger seat laughed told me it was less a greeting than a commentary on my Mexican-American roots. It was not meant to be friendly. I walked faster.

To be honest, I had brushed off the incident by the time I arrived at the office and I haven’t given it much thought since. I bring it up now only to show how strange a time it was in Prince William County, how the immigration debate spilled beyond the official board meetings and into the streets daily. Emotions were high; lines were drawn.

I was among the reporters at The Post covering the issue at the time. But simultaneously, local filmmakers Annabel Park and Eric Byler were telling the story in another form. While the debate raged, they released roughly edited footage on Youtube. And last week, the culmination of their work, culled from thousands of hours of film, hit theaters. The documentary, "9500 Liberty" – named for the address where a large banner hung in opposition to the crackdown – celebrated its theatrical premiere on Friday in Arizona, which has passed a strict immigration law that echos what Prince William lawmakers initially approved.

The trailer alone tells a powerful story, showing how the debate divided the Prince William community and how, once approved, the crackdown created economic struggles. The preview accomplishes this in four minutes and twenty-three seconds.

You can see it here.

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By Theresa Vargas  | May 4, 2010; 8:08 AM ET
Categories:  Story Picks  | Tags:  Manassas, Prince William, Prince William County, Prince William County Virginia, Virginia, aliens, illegal immigrants, illegal immigration  
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