A study by George Mason University researchers has found that a majority of residents in two Manassas neighborhoods express deep-seated anti-immigrant sentiments, though fewer than half say immigration has affected them personally. They survey, which included life history interviews, was conducted from Spring 2008 to Summer 2009 to attain an in-depth understanding of the forces inciting a local movement to adopt legislation to “crackdown” on illegal immigration in Prince William County.
Forty-six percent of those surveyed indicated that immigration had had either no effect on them personally or has had a positive effect. A total of 79 percent stated that they like their neighborhoods and 56.9 percent said that they planned to stay in their neighborhood in the next five years.
Yet, 53 percent of the residents in the Weems and Sumner Lake neighborhoods surveyed stated that the U.S. should take decisive action to deport illegal immigrants, and/or blamed them for depleting local resources such as health care and education. Some expressed strong anti-immigrant sentiments as indicated by the statements: “The place is being barraged with Latinios….Everywhere you go, there are swarms of them,” and, “Can I send them on a bus and load it up until they all speak English?” Others were more moderate in their sentiments, citing the issue of immigrants having entered the country illegally as a key concern. Researchers also found that some neighborhood residents were involved in community activities aimed at minimizing neighborhood conflicts around issues of immigration.
Interviews were conducted in selected neighborhoods revealed that Census tract data and press accounts to have become home ot both white, native-born Americans and Latino immigrants in the preceding decade. The survey employed an in-depth sampling strategy, the ethnosurvey, which requires in-person interviews at randomly selected street addresses. The survey produced 104 responses for face-to-face interviews of approximately one hour in which residents were asked their opinions on a number of neighborhood quality of life measures. These findings were followed by 21 life history interviews that were taped and transcribed verbatim.
Researchers Carol Cleaveland and Debra Lattanzi Shutika are examining the discrepancy between the perceived high quality of life for most residents, and the expression of strong anti-immigrant sentiments. One explanation, the researchers note, might be the patterns of residency–in particular the use of residential property to house large groups of men. Neighbors believed that the men had been recruited for the construction industry, which had flourished prior to the recession. Sixty-six percent of those interviewed complained of overcrowded houses, and 59 percent stated that too may cars are parked on streets as a result of this overcrowding. Fifty-three percent said tha some homes in their neighborhood were poorly maintained. Seventy percent cited foreclosures as a problem in their neighborhoods.