Day Before Potomac Primary, WaPo Laments 'Frustration of Being Illegal'

Non-naturalized immigrants, especially illegal ones, can't vote in federal elections. Nonetheless, the day before the so-called Potomac Primary (D.C., Md., and Va.), the Washington Post devoted a 22-paragraph Metro section story to "The Frustration of Being Illegal."

The story, by staff writer Marcela Sanchez, aims at tugging at the heart strings by recounting the plight of one immigrant who fears her deportation will separate her from her children. Here's an excerpt:

Celia Llanes came to the United States 4 1/2 years ago with typical immigrant aspirations. She hoped to provide for her family, earn enough to buy a patch of land back home and perhaps take her girls to Disney World. Today, her wish is far simpler: that when she is deported her girls will be deported with her.

"I am waiting for immigration," she says with a matter-of-fact tone. She has begun sending some of her more valued belongings (such as a set of Royal Prestige pots she paid for in installments) to Guatemala because, she says, "they don't let you take anything."

As the anti-illegal-immigration backlash grew last year in Prince William County, where Llanes lives, the 32-year-old Manassas resident said she started to feel the world around her change. She said supermarket cashiers suddenly grew annoyed and acted as if they didn't understand her. She said her girls told her, "Mami, las maestras prefieren a los Americanos." ("The teachers prefer the Americans.")

Prince William county supervisors voted in October to enact some of the region's toughest policies against illegal immigrants, including the use of police to enforce immigration laws. Llanes says the new measures have become such a source of personal anxiety that she is convinced they are taking a toll on her health. She has sharp stomach pain apparently caused by gallstones, and her frequent headaches have gotten worse.

Is tempting to ask when a Post writer will be assigned the task of documenting the frustration of being a Post reader who opposes illegal immigration, but I suspect most of them are either resigned that the paper's staff either doesn't care about their plight or the monetary value of their home subscriptions.

Ken Shepherd
Ken Shepherd
Ken Shepherd is a writer living in New Carrollton, Md.