Film: 9500 Liberty

A Virginia county’s battle over random immigration status checks.

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In July 2007, the board of supervisors of Prince William County, Virginia, passed a resolution that allowed police to check the immigration status of anyone they suspected of being undocumented. 9500 Liberty chronicles the ensuing battle between the county’s sizable Hispanic population and folks like the founder of the group Help Save Manassas, who casually compares immigrants to invading Huns. Drawn from footage that filmmakers Annabel Park and Eric Byler shot and posted in real time on YouTube, this moving film (named after the location of anti-racist murals) follows how this local controversy turned into a national Rorschach test for attitudes about immigration reform and race.

The film’s climax comes during a showdown at a 13-hour county meeting. White supporters of the resolution rail against crowded neighborhoods and soaring crime rates, and urge everyone, “Don’t ever forget 9/11.” Opponents, including the white police chief, argue that immigrants are vital, taxpaying members of the community. “Don’t confuse 9/11 with the 7-Eleven,” says one speaker. “The guys at the 7-Eleven just want to work.” After several months, the resolution was repealed, but Prince William’s immigrants had already gotten the message: Toward the end of the film we see empty storefronts and abandoned homes in what were once vibrant neighborhoods.

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is the first thing despots go after. An unwavering commitment to it is probably what draws you to Mother Jones' journalism. And as we're seeing in the US and the world around, authoritarians seek to poison the discourse and the way we relate to each other because they can't stand people coming together around a shared sense of the truth—it's a huge threat to them.

Which is also a pretty great way to describe Mother Jones' mission: People coming together around the truth to hold power accountable.

And right now, we need to raise about $400,000 from our online readers over the next two months to hit our annual goal and make good on that mission. Read more about the information war we find ourselves in and how people-powered, independent reporting can and must rise to the challenge—and please support our team's truth-telling journalism with a donation if you can right now.

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