Virginia county fighting day labor center

Emotions are running high in Loudoun County,Virginia, after officials for the town of Herndon approved the creation of a tax-payer-funded center for day laborers on Aug. 17.

After hearing 10 hours of testimony, the Herndon Council approved the creation of the center in a 5-2 vote. The center will be a formal gathering place for day laborers to wait for employers – most of whom are construction contractors – to hire them. But some Loudoun officials are fighting to make sure the center never opens.

Loudoun County Supervisor Eugene Delgaudio said Herndon acted alone to deal with a problem that will affect Loudoun just as much as it affects Herndon. Part of the center will be located within the Loudoun border.

“Herndon is ignoring Loudoun and we will not stand by and allow an illegal operation to operate in our vicinity,” Delgaudio said. “They are running our zoning laws through the shredder.”

At the heart of the day labor problem is the large number of illegal immigrants who are looking for work. Opponents of the center say it will only make the problem worse.

“It will be a magnet for illegal aliens,” Delgaudio said. “Having people sit around and wait for jobs is a form of socialism. The existence of this center will not be beneficial; it will damage our economy.”

Delgaudio says the county will take every measure it can, including litigation, to keep the center from opening.

The plan for the center came about in response to the gathering of workers each day at a Herndon 7-Eleven. Proponents of the day labor facility hope moving workers to a monitored site will ease tension the congregation has caused in the community.

Delgaudio says it’s not just that Herndon seems to be moving the problem from the middle of its city to the Loudoun border that bothers him, but the message the center would send to illegal aliens throughout the United States. “People don’t normally sit around and wait for jobs to come to them, they go out and get them,” he says. “If this is started there is no limit to where it ends.”

Steve Vermillion, chief executive of the Virginia chapter of the Associated General Contractors of America, doesn’t think the center would be a problem for the organization’s members.

“As far as I know, day labor is generally not employed by our members, and I haven’t heard any of our AGC centers around the country discuss the problem either,” Vermillion said. “I would, however, have concerns about training and safety.”

While staff members with Project Hope and Harmony, the group the town gave a permit to build and operate the hiring hall, will notify employers that hiring illegal aliens is against the law, they will not ask day laborers for immigration documents. Attempts to contact Project Hope and Harmony officials were unsuccessful.

Delgaudio said he wouldn’t fault Project Hope and Harmony, which has said it plans to have the hiring center open in 90 days, if it opened the facility on its own property and didn’t use public money.

“Charity is limitless,” he said. “But government has to be limited.”

— Jonathan Menard