U.S. immigrant worker debate taken up by Virginia township

From Wikinews, the free news source you can write!
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Tuesday, August 2, 2005 File:Bill Threlked.jpg

Bill Threlked said, "What we want to try to do here is build activities where people can begin to understand each other and feel like everybody here is a neighbor one with another."
(Image missing from Commons: image; log)

In a scene repeated across much of America, each morning a group of day laborers, mostly immigrants, assemble by a 7-Eleven convenience store in the hopes of getting work.

Each day, nearly 200 people gather near the nation's capital in Herndon, Virginia; these laborers do much of the hard and dangerous work not wanted by most U.S. citizens. This daily gathering has drawn both the ire and compassion of the Herndon community. A public hearing Monday night to discuss a new plan drew an overflowing crowd to the Town Council chambers. The Commission said so many people signed up to speak at the hearing that the panel will need to convene again Tuesday night.

For years groups and businesses among the community who want to help the day laborers have been working on the issue. In a plan spearheaded by Bill Threlkeld, of the group Project Hope and Harmony, they lobbied Herndon officials to use taxpayer money to build a regulated day laborer center in an old police station at the edge of town. This they say would get the day-laborer group(s) off the street. The plan has the backing of Herndon mayor, Michael L. O'Reilly.

The plan would also combine the opening of the center with a new local ordinance that would make it a misdemeanor crime for a laborer to seek work at any location other than the official one. Opponents of the plan say the town would be aiding illegal immigrants if it established the center.

A Pew Hispanic Center survey found a 25% increase over four years in the number of illegal immigrants in the U.S. The number now is estimated to have reached about 10.3 million. Local governments do not have the authority to enforce national immigration laws, so the town of Herndon must rely on federal officials, who show little interest in getting involved.