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Several dozen Latinos, including children as young as 3 years old, were forced out of their Woodbridge trailer homes by Prince William County police late Thursday afternoon.
"They knocked, and there was the police," says Jazmin Cervantes, a 15-year-old girl who was among those evicted. "They were like you know you're not supposed to live here anymore."
The Holly Acres trailer park has tried to come under compliance since suffering a devastating flood last September as a result of a tropical storm, says Kelly Dickerson, the property manager.
"They were passing out these summonses to the people, and the summons says it's a failure to obtain an occupancy permit," Dickerson says. "But if you go down to get a permit, any kind of permit, as soon as you say Holly Acres, they tell you, 'No permits for Holly Acres.'"
The ten mobile homes whose residents were evicted yesterday were among two dozen condemned by the county in September after Tropical Storm Lee flooded the trailer park. But the park's owner is suing the county, alleging the process used to inspect and condemn the homes was incomplete and illegal.
The residents returned to their condemned trailers, made repairs, hooked extension cords from their homes to trailers with power, and have been living there for months.
This prompted the latest crackdown, according to Prince William County spokesperson Jason Grant.
"What would happen if we allowed this occur, if we turned a blind eye, and that place went up in smoke, or some kid picks up an electrical cord and dies," Grant says.
But Mark Moorstein, the attorney for Holly Acres, isn't buying it.
"It's a silly situation where they basically say, in order to keep somebody safe, we're going to make them homeless," Moorstein says. "And the county has spent more time and more money focusing on removing these eight families than they have in terms of trying to solve the problem of the flood plain itself."
But solving the flood issue would cost $2 million according to a county-funded report that warned about the flood dangers in Holly Acres almost two years before Lee hit.
"This flood did not have to happen," says community activist Gregg Reynolds. "Prince William County caused this flood."
Tito Munoz, a Republican activist in Prince William who has been trying to help the families, sees a more sinister motive behind the County’s efforts to evict them.
It's a "land grab," he says. "Take the land from the owner without compensation to the families that live here, bankrupt the owners."
County officials dismiss those claims as ludicrous. Grant says it is not Prince William County's responsibility to alleviate Holly Acres' flooding problems.
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