9500 Liberty: Documenting the Debate around a “Show Me Your Papers” Policy

In the summer of 2007, the Prince William County, Virginia Board of Supervisors passed a first-of-its-kind anti-immigrant resolution with a “show me your papers” clause. It required police officers to check the immigration status of anyone they had probable cause to believe was an undocumented immigrant. A pair of documentarians, Annabel Park and Eric Byler recorded—in real time—the heated debate that transpired surrounding the passage of the resolution, documenting the division it created in the community of Prince William County.

Watch the ACLU’s Executive Director, Anthony Romero, introduce Byler and Park’s film, 9500 Liberty, here.

Originally introduced by Supervisor John T. Stirrup Jr. (R-Gainesville) and vigorously backed by Chairman Corey A. Stewart (R-Occoquan), the resolution’s aim was to reduce the number of undocumented immigrants in the county. Corrupt politics and fervent racism led to the resolution’s hasty push through the local political institution, resulting in its passage in July 2007 and planned implementation in Spring 2008.

Despite the Board of Supervisors’ unanimous vote to ratify the anti-immigrant policy, it did not go uncontested. Hundreds of Prince William County residents addressed board members during the initial vote as well as subsequent assemblies. The debate and opposition surrounding the resolution continued, unabated, until the policy was finally amended in April 2008, “chang[ing] the mandated stage at which police officers [were] required to make citizenship status inquiries.”

Throughout the filming of 9500 Liberty, Park and Byler posted excerpts of the ongoing debate to YouTube, offering a forum for public commentary and influence over the documentary’s attentions. By posting clips as they were shot, Park and Byler generated growing awareness about the anti-immigrant policy outside of Prince William County. Their efforts to publicize the dispute and the after-effects of the resolution’s passage—a community struggling to maintain economic stability after an exodus of immigrants and to restore harmony amongst its residents—successfully illustrated a grassroots struggle that ended in a measure of success for undocumented immigrants and their supporters in Prince William County.

Please note that by playing this clip You Tube and Google will place a long-term cookie on your computer. Please see You Tube's privacy statement on their website and Google's privacy statement on theirs to learn more. To view the ACLU's privacy statement, click here.

The anti-immigrant resolution passed in Prince William County was by no means out of place or unexpected considering anti-immigrant sentiment across the United States. However, we can retrospectively examine the policy, its proponents and opponents, its consequences, as a harbinger of future anti-immigrant laws. It was three years later, in 2010, when Arizona’s SB 1070 passed with a “show me your papers” clause closely mirroring that of Prince William County’s resolution—recently upheld in the Supreme Court decision. Alabama, Georgia, Indiana, South Carolina and Utah followed shortly thereafter, enacting their own copycat, anti-immigrant laws at the state-level, all of which are presently being challenged by the ACLU and a coalition of civil rights groups.

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It's not anti-immigrant. It's anti-illegal alien. Get a dictionary.


Huge fan of Michael Moore... would love to someday see Michael using his 'brand' in order to get involved in starting an "OWN-type" of Consumer-Oriented Cable Channel (without Oprah's admitted, apparent and unfortunate missteps along the way, of course).

(Uh...Backlash?) o John Lovitz Pays Enough "Yeah! That's the ticket!"


Scott Brown should be ashamed. It's no wonder he didn't invite my personal heroes president Bush who's father President George Bush who and Laura to that "Champagne Cocktail" Republican Convention. George W was there at the apocalypse on an ash heap proclaiming "Don't worry if you cant hear me, I hear you!"

And his heroic father barely survived a WWI aircraft crash and lived to champion the Americans with Disabilities act for our disabled citizens and veteran's families who may not have been covered for the continuing care that they needed after they had nobly and honorable served our counter.

Tough to stand by and remain silent when you're listening to this pampered and pompous privileged 'comedy actor' prattle on. Just like during these ('no-questions-please') GOP right leaning and cheerleading promotional appearance that Mr. Lovitz makes...

Where the bright idea of a "Return to American Values" is making the wealthy wealthier and simultaneously dismantling Medicare; literally 'crippling' our seniors ability to maintain their vital health care coverage with security and level of dignity.

Grandma can't get her necessary new 'Wheelchair Upgrade' but Mitt Romney gets a Kick A*s Multi-Level Garage Installed? The Choice for 2012 Elections: Obama Cares vs. Romney "Who-Cares, Really?"

And who exactly is more "deserving" in this situation?" John Lovitz an apathetic washed up, windbag comedian (who's to evidently wealthy to care about the elderly anymore) or even Mitt Romney made money during his lifetime buying and selling businesses; and Granny and Grandpa worked and paid into their Medicaid account their ENTIRE lifetime!

By the way, these "comedy" right-wingers like John Lovitz and Dennis Leary also want to "End Food Stamps as They Need it" for the folks who are either senior, disabled and/or those who's unemployment eligibility has dried up. And who's next to demonized?

What about VA compensable service-connected conditions. 'What about VA commensurable service-connected conditions as well as those veterans needing nursing home care and inpatient hospitalizations. Will Romney and Ryan eventually also demonize and then chuck these guys and girls under the bus too?

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