The woman moderator, who said she was from Maryland, wanted very much to talk about immigrants. The participants already had discussed any issues they were concerned about, except the war in Iraq. There would be no talk about Iraq, the woman said. But up to that point, no one had mentioned immigration, much to the annoyance of the moderator. So she prodded the group to complain about immigrants.
"I haven't heard anybody talk about immigration," Peoples, an independent, recalls her saying. "Anybody have a problem with the illegal aliens coming in?"
The group's response to the question was "a deafening silence," Peoples says. But the woman pushed harder, listing some of the complaints she said she had heard in other states where she had conducted focus groups. Still, no one obliged her. Instead, Peoples mentioned the immigrant workers in a nearby town, praising them for how hard they seem to work.
Not the correct answer. Someone was paying money for this. They wanted problems.
"She shut me off," Peoples recalls. "Then she said, 'Aren't you having problems here?' "