By Cde. TN Long

On March 11, residents of the Columbia Gardens apartments in Arlington, VA, held a rally to protest their upcoming mass eviction at the end of the month. The rally was organized by local immigrant rights group La ColectiVA and also attended by members of the community, CPUSA, PSL, and Our Revolution.

The apartments’ slumlord is evicting residents in order to demolish and redevelop the apartment block into more expensive apartments. This is not unique to Arlington or the rest of Northern Virginia, as the future site of Amazon’s HQ2 in Arlington has triggered a cascade of gentrification. Columbia Gardens residents (who are poor, primarily Central American, and often undocumented) currently find themselves priced out of the wider community by increasing rents and income requirements.

La ColectiVA has been organizing and assisting residents with exploring legal appeals to push back the eviction dates. Luz Tobar of La ColectiVA stated in an interview that they are trying to get the Arlington County government to assist with relocation and possibly delay eviction by three to six months to allow more time for residents to secure new housing. Tobar highlighted the risk involved with getting Arlington County involved is that the county has no policy blocking collaboration with ICE, which could expose the residents to deportation. Slumlords often target poor, undocumented immigrants because they have no other choice in housing, then weaponize ICE to shut down tenants’ demands for basic needs. ICE currently operates infamous concentration camps primarily incarcerating Central Americans (often called “kids in cages”) which have been publicly known to operate since 2014. The agency has also come under fire recently for agents on horseback whipping Haitian refugees, the photos of which were widely criticized as being reminiscent of antebellum plantation overseers.

Residents stated the problems at Columbia Gardens didn’t start with the eviction notices either. Reports of mold, rat, and insect infestations abound, forcing residents to store all food in sealed containers for fear of vermin getting through boxes. This has caused immense stress to their families and particularly impacted their children’s educations.

Time is running out for the residents of Columbia Gardens. Without intervention they have until March 31 to vacate their apartments. La ColectiVA is raising funds for legal assistance (beyond know-your-rights education). Donations are accepted on their website.

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