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  1. #1
    Senior Member
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    May 2007

    Virginia town tackles immigration

    Virginia town tackles immigration
    A labor center fuels a debate as it keeps undocumented workers off street corners.
    Published June 11, 2007

    HERNDON, Va. - A pickup truck pulls up to the green-and-white striped tent where men in paint-spattered work pants lounge on wooden benches, chatting in Spanish and sipping mango juice.

    The driver is looking for a painter. In the next car, a man needs someone to rebuild a dock. A young couple arrive in search of movers.

    One by one, the men leave for a day's work. By closing time, 11 a.m., 30 employers will have hired 50 men.

    The labor center was opened to help this small but growing suburb of Washington deal with the influx of workers, an estimated three-quarters of them in the United States illegally, who were congregating on a downtown corner looking for jobs.

    It's little different than the 63 centers that have popped up in 17 states - including one in Jupiter in south Florida - around a country struggling with an illegal immigration problem. But its existence, much like its creation, has been mired in debate, and after just 18 months, the future of the Herndon Official Workers Center is uncertain.

    A newly elected Town Council wants workers to prove they are in the country legally - a move many fear will push the problem back on the streets.

    As Congress continues to struggle on an overhaul of the nation's immigration laws, localities across the nation have grown tired of waiting for lawmakers to act, choosing instead to take matters into their own hands.

    Thirty miles down the road from the marbled U.S. Capitol building, Herndon officials are trying to curb their illegal immigrant population: adopting English as the official language; training police officers to detain undocumented immigrants; requiring small businesses to employ only documented workers.

    "This is definitely an instance of doing things because the politicians aren't, " council member Dennis Husch said. "This town council was given marching orders from the citizens of this community."

    But Herndon is discovering that while it may be easier to act locally, the problem is not any easier to solve.

    Herndon was a small farming town until a flurry of high-tech companies began to move into the area in the 1980s and 1990s, creating a building boom of residential communities. The need for construction workers, landscapers and carpenters fueled Herndon's immigrant population.

    By 2000, a quarter of Herndon's 22, 000 residents were Hispanic, many from Central America. Now, it's closer to a third.

    The immigrant impact can be seen in the long lines at the fish counter at the grocery store on Sunday nights, the enclaves of apartment complexes almost completely occupied by Hispanics and the proliferation of Central American restaurants.

    And for years it could be seen at the parking lot outside the 7-Eleven on Elden Street, the main commercial strip through town. That's where 70 or more men would stand each day waiting for work, swarming around cars when a driver approached.

    Residents grew frustrated with the trash, public urination and other problems. The town tried to bring some order to a chaotic situation - opening a day labor center on the outskirts of town while also making it illegal to solicit for work on the street.

    Support was strong, but opposition was, too.

    A group sued to prevent using taxpayer dollars to open a center that it contended would lead to "the illegal employment of undocumented aliens." State and federal lawmakers publicly criticized the proposal. Calls flooded the Herndon Town Hall switchboard, making it inoperable for days.

    "We were portrayed as pro-illegal immigration, " former Mayor Michael O'Reilly said. "There could be nothing further from the truth. What we did was try to manage a bad situation."

    One hundred twelve workers arrived on that first frigid morning in December 2005. Minutemen, part of a national group that fights illegal immigration, jotted down the license plates of employers. Local contractors started arriving in unmarked vehicles.

    Van Foster doesn't care if the workers are undocumented, and he isn't sure that the town should care either.

    "I don't know that it's this town's responsibility, " he said.

    Foster, of nearby Reston, just wants his dock rebuilt. So on a recent morning he drove to the center to find an inexpensive carpenter. It was his third trip in a year.

    The organization that runs the center agrees with Foster. No one asks the legal status of the laborers. They ask more questions of the prospective employers than the workers.

    How much do they pay? Will they provide lunch and transportation? Do they need an English speaker?

    Workers are selected based on a lottery system designed to give each of them an equal chance at a job. Sometimes, they are taken out of order if an employer needs a particular skill or wants someone they have hired before.

    While the men wait to be hired, they can take English classes taught by volunteers in a nearby trailer or snack on plantain chips, pupusa and beans and rice sold next door.

    Some workers interviewed refused to say whether they were in the country legally. Others said they were not worried about the center's future because they had faith God would help them.

    "The center is okay for all the people that don't have work, " said Oscar Pardo, 62, a worker who comes to Herndon three months each year from Bolivia. "It's good."

    Just as the country and Congress are divided on the issue of immigration, so, too, is Herndon.

    In May 2006, in an election that was largely based on a single issue, voters unseated O'Reilly and two council members on the seven-member board who supported the center.

    Over the last year, as the town has tried to take control of its illegal immigrant population, Congress has been unable to agree on how to do that for the nation.

    Last week, the Senate failed to approve a bill that would give the nation's 12-million undocumented immigrants a path to citizenship, increase border security with Mexico and beef up employment verification programs. It would not affect day labor centers.

    Frustrated by the federal logjam, Herndon continues to chart its own course.

    The town council has asked Reston Interfaith, the nonprofit group that runs the center under a $175, 000 contract with Fairfax County, to start asking workers their status. The group refused.

    "We saw no reason to do that, " Reston Interfaith CEO Kerrie Wilson said. "Our purpose is to offer services."

    The town council is looking for a new operator, but none has stepped forward.

    Officials have not decided what to do if it doesn't find a new operator. Closing it could create other problems.

    Recent court rulings around the nation have struck down laws forbidding day laborers from soliciting work on the street - unless localities have provided workers with an alternative remedy, like a day labor center.

    While the center's future is unclear, the town's crackdown on illegal immigration is not.

    "The rest of the country should take notice what has happened in Herndon, " said Aubrey Stokes, a member of Help Save Herndon, a group formed to oppose the center. "The lesson is that politicians work for people and if they don't do their job, they should be held accountable."

    Times researcher Lea Ladarola contributed to this report. Anita Kumar can be reached at 202-463-0576 or

    Herndon Va.

    Total population: 21, 655

    Hispanic/Latino: 5, 633 or 26%

    Foreign born: 7, 907 or 36.5%

    Speak a language other than English at home: 8, 817 or 44.4%

    Source: 2000 Census

    Herndon Official Workers Center

    -Almost 6, 000 employers hired workers for more than 10, 000 jobs in the first year.

    -An average of more than 100 workers showed up each day.

    -Hiring rates fluctuated between 13 percent and 43 percent comparable to the previous informal site.

    Source: Herndon Official Workers Center

    Day laborers

    -Nationally, almost 120, 000 day laborers are looking for work each day.

    -75 percent are here illegally; 11 percent of those have an application pending on immigration status.

    -59 percent were born in Mexico; 28 percent were born in Central America; only 7 percent of day laborers were born in the United States.

    -49 percent employed by homeowners or renters; 43 percent by contractors.

    -Median hourly wage is $10. Most live below federal poverty line.

    -Almost half have experienced wage theft - not getting paid after completing the work or being paid less than what was agreed upon.

    Source: 2006 National Day Labor Study ... kles.shtml

  2. #2
    How much do they pay? Will they provide lunch and transportation? Do they need an English speaker?

    They may not have to pay much , But the taxpayers that support their familys pay a fortune . No such thing as a free lunch and everybody that is hiring the "cheap " labor knows that . This country has already had a problem with slavery I guess they want another one .

  3. #3
    wolfbaby's Avatar
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    Jan 1970
    I read somewhere recently that the people who were lucky enough to own homes near the day-laborer site can't seem to sell there houses.Gee,I wonder why? I'm sure the good citizens who use the laborers would feel a little different about the site if it were on their block.

  4. #4
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Jun 2005
    North Carolina
    -59 percent were born in Mexico; 28 percent were born in Central America; only 7 percent of day laborers were born in the United States.
    This means a US citizen must compete with 14 people born outside the US for a job paying an average of $10 per hour.

    What kind of country do we live in when a town allows this to happen?
    Join our efforts to Secure America's Borders and End Illegal Immigration by Joining ALIPAC's E-Mail Alerts network (CLICK HERE)

  5. #5

    Join Date
    Jan 1970
    Am I understanding this right? Americans are forced to pay for a building for these lawbreakers or, according to the judges, we can't get them off our streets? How the heck are we going to get them out of our country if we can't even get the pigs off our streets???

    Before this mess, I would never have thought of not hiring someone to do work around my home because they're Hispanic...that's changed. NEVER will I hire a Hispanic or a company who employs them. That way, I can be relatively sure I won't be hiring an illegal alien, thereby keeping the job from a REAL American.

  6. #6
    Administrator Jean's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2006
    Herndon eyes ban on illegals at labor center

    July 2, 2007

    By Natasha Altamirano - Herndon officials are considering proposals that would bar Illegal aliens from using the town"s day-laborer center.

    The town has received two proposals for a new day-laborer site that would check workers" immigration status, Herndon spokeswoman Anne Curtis said.

    The new site would replace the Herndon Official Workers Center, which is run by the Project Hope & Harmony group and does not mandate legal status.

    An internal staff committee led by the town manager must evaluate the proposals and determine whether to bring one before the full Town Council, Ms. Curtis said.

    Town officials in January issued an official request for a new site operator that would check for worker eligibility, she said.

    Ms. Curtis declined to name the people or agencies that submitted the proposals and said an evaluation timeline has not been established.

    A founding member of HelpSaveHerndon, which was organized in opposition to the center and its perceived assistance of illegal aliens, said he submitted one of the proposals. The center is partially funded by taxpayers.

    Herndon resident Dennis "Butch" Baughan said he envisions a center that could be used by high-school dropouts, juvenile offenders, unemployment agencies and special-needs groups.

    "I want to take the concept of a day-labor site and make it a true community site ... as opposed to the center as it"s set up now," Mr. Baughan said. "It"s all about one population. To me, that"s unfair."

    Critics of the town"s plan to begin monitoring workers" immigration status say that laborers will be forced back to seeking work on the street or convenience-store parking lots — the main reason the center was opened in December 2005.

    Town Council member J. Harlon Reece, the only member to vote against issuing a request for proposals, told the Herndon Connection newspaper that forcing workers onto the streets would lead to more legal challenges against the town"s anti-solicitation ordinance, passed in 2005 before the day-labor center opened.

    Fairfax County General District Court upheld the constitutionality of the anti-solicitation ordinance in March, after a Reston man challenged it on free-speech grounds, the Connection reported.

    HelpSaveHerndon co-founder Aubrey Stokes called such claims "fear-mongering among those who would seek to provide services to illegal aliens."

    "There"s a different atmosphere in Herndon now," Mr. Stokes said. "The townspeople have come to see that people who are here illegally are not an asset to either the businesses, the neighborhoods or the town as a whole, and I feel that they"re going to take the appropriate response."

    Herndon police recently became the first locality in the region to complete federal training in immigration-enforcement procedures.

    Voters did not re-elect some town officials who supported the opening of the center.

    Officials with the center could not be reached, but Bill Threlkeld of Project Hope & Harmony told the Connection that he"s not surprised that somebody who opposes the day-labor center would submit such a proposal. ... 20039/1004
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  7. #7
    Senior Member DcSA's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2007
    "There"s a different atmosphere in Herndon now," Mr. Stokes said. "The townspeople have come to see that people who are here illegally are not an asset to either the businesses, the neighborhoods or the town as a whole, and I feel that they"re going to take the appropriate response."

    Herndon police recently became the first locality in the region to complete federal training in immigration-enforcement procedures.
    As I remember, Herndon is where there is an active MinuteMen group calling attention to the day worker problem. Looks like all their sacrifices have paid off. Adopt a Soldier

    "This is our culture - fight for it. This is our flag - pick it up. This is our country - take it back." - Congressman Tom Tancredo

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