- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 18, 2005

The Herndon Town Council last night approved a proposed center for immigrant day laborers on a 5-2 vote.

On Tuesday and again last night before voting after 11 p.m., the council heard testimony from scores of residents, most of whom oppose the application filed by Project Hope and Harmony, a group of community leaders and churches seeking to curb problems associated with day laborers loitering at one of the town’s 7-Eleven stores.

Project Hope and Harmony wants to open a trailer at the town’s police station for day laborers who now congregate at the 7-Eleven. The center would provide restrooms and offer English classes and access to social workers to day laborers, who include legal immigrants and illegal aliens.

Project Hope and Harmony is looking for private donations and has applied for a grant from Fairfax County.

The county has set aside $400,000 in taxpayer funds from its $3 billion annual budget to address the day-labor problem in Herndon, Annandale, Culmore and Springfield. It has yet to grant the funds to any group, and officials are still reviewing applications.

Protests erupted outside the Herndon Municipal Center during the council meeting and during the planning commission hearings earlier this month.

The commission voted 4-3 against recommending the proposal after the majority of residents who spoke said they opposed it.

Mayor Michael O’Reilly supports the center, and he said before the meeting yesterday that he was looking forward to suggesting some restrictions on the application.

He said he would prefer a regulated site over the current gathering place, which prompts complaints from residents that workers litter, urinate in public and harass women.

Mr. O’Reilly said he expected “ample discussion at the council level, comments and probably even speeches.”

“We want to do it right. Doing it quickly is not one of our goals,” he said.

Although at least one council member had opposed the proposal publicly, the others kept their opinions private until the vote.

Groups such as the Federation for American Immigration Reform and Judicial Watch have threatened to sue the town if it approves the day-laborer center, saying it would encourage illegal immigration.

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