An organizer said she called off the traditional May 5 celebration of Hispanic pride after she said she received a phone call from the Fairfax office of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.
"I don't want to be responsible for one single parent to be taken from their home, whether they're illegal or not," said Maria Roe, who launched the festival three years ago.
Roe, who writes a Spanish-language column for a local weekly newspaper, said she asked the caller why she was interested in the festival and didn't get an answer.
"What does that make you think?" Roe told the Richmond Times-Dispatch in an interview published Friday.
Gloria Williams-Brevard, an Immigration Services community relations officer, said the call was simply intended to find out more about the festival and its location. She had an interest in attending the festival to offer information on how her office can help immigrants with visa applications, citizenship requests and other support.
"We're not the enforcement component" of immigration, she said. "If nothing else, it sounds like there is an opportunity for outreach there."
Roe said she communicated her concerns to the Colonial Beach Foundation, which was organizing the event. This year's celebration was to feature Hispanic pop bands, vendors and a parade. It had been renamed the Hispanic-American Festival of May.
"It's been gaining in popularity the last two years," said Peter Fahrney, foundation president.
Roe's fears of an immigration crackdown "rattled a lot of people in the area," Fahrney said.
"There was anxiety in the Hispanic community that they were going to be hassled or singled out in some way" at the festival, he said.
Workers from Mexico and Central America are becoming an increasingly important part of the economy in this tourist community on the Potomac River and in the rest of the Northern Neck. About 950 migrant workers are employed by the region's farms, nurseries, lumber mills and seafood processing houses, according to the Virginia Employment Commission.
Fahrney said he hopes the foundation will hold its Hispanic-American festival next spring.
"It serves to integrate a nonparticipatory minority into the mainstream culture of our small community," he said. "We'll have to see how it pans out next year."