The small town of Lawrenceville, Virginia is the target of a housing discrimination complaint after the townspeople protested against a government decision to house up to 500 immigrants in a local college, reported Watchdog on Tuesday.
The original plan was for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to establish a contract with the now closed private St. Paul's College in Lawrenceville, which would have seen St. Paul's receiving a monthly rent payment of $160,000 to house minors who illegally crossed the U.S.-Mexico border.
But once the locals caught wind of the plan, around 1,000 people showed up to a June 19 town hall meeting to protest the decision, and the government reversed its plan and began looking elsewhere.
Now, St. Paul's is upset that they won't be receiving the $160,000 per month rental windfall, saying they are therefore unable to "complete necessary improvements to the campus and repay creditors."
The college along with the fair-housing group Home Opportunities Made Equal in Virginia (HOME) have decided to file a "housing discrimination complaint with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development against the town of Lawrenceville, surrounding Brunswick County and Brunswick County's elected Sheriff Brian Roberts," said Watchdog.
St. Paul's press release stated:
"Upon being informed of the impending lease contract and after meaningful consultation with the college, elected and employed officials of the town of Lawrenceville and Brunswick County orchestrated and implemented a plan to block the deal. Purported concerns by these individuals are grounded in false stereotypes about Latinos and reflect discrimination based on race, color, and/or national origin."
St. Paul's also accused Brunswick County Sheriff Brian Roberts of making "discriminatory statements to the media" about the immigrants proposed to be house at the college.
"There is this negative perception of gang violence – these people are coming from Central America," Roberts said, as documented in the press release.
Another key point St. Paul's has made is that they believe, "Every person in the United States is protected by the Fair Housing Act regardless of their immigration status."
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development website does indeed contain those statements, and also expressly prohibits "discrimination because of national origin."
But Roberts and the people he serves say their opposition is less about national origin, and more about a concern for safety.
"After spending six days this summer investigating possible safety concerns that could come with housing undocumented children, Roberts, like many others in Lawrenceville, opposed the plan," according to Watchdog.