- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 3, 2006

This week’s town elections in Herndon, Va., are a significant bellweather for voters’ preferences on illegal aliens. People around the country want a significant tightening of the government’s handling of illegals and they are willing to kick politicians out of office if necessary. Lawmakers in Washington and officials in states and cities around the country should take note.

In Herndon, the vote was a firm rebuke to politicians who spent effort and tax dollars on day-laborer centers catering to illegal aliens. Voters threw out Mayor Michael L. O’Reilly and Town Council members Carol A. Bruce and Steven D. Mitchell, three strong supporters of the town’s day-laborer center, in an election decided largely on the day-laborer issue.

Council member Dennis Husch, the center’s most vocal opponent, was re-elected with the highest vote tally, while the lone re-elected supporter of the center, J. Harlon Reece, got the fewest votes. In perhaps the clearest sign that voters act upon their anti-illegal instincts, the four candidates to replace the outgoing pro-day-laborer-center council were all critical of the center.

The day-laborer controversy has roiled Herndon since August, when the Town Council voted 5-2 to create a day-laborer center and the mayor signaled his support. The center, partially funded by Fairfax County, was clearly intended to handle illegal workers as well as legal ones, a fact its backers ultimately failed to justify.

Voters simply weren’t convinced that their tax dollars should be spent on people who broke immigration law to get here and on those wanting to hire them at low wages. Residents — no doubt happy to be rid of the noisy and troublesome use of a 7-Eleven parking lot for the hiring of day laborers — were nevertheless unsatisfied with the decision to locate a center so close to home. Conservative activist groups like Judicial Watch, which sued the town over the center, and the Minuteman Project were unflinchingly confident that the center itself was both illegal and deeply unpopular. All appear vindicated after Tuesday’s closely watched elections.

In many regards, Herndon’s approach was the precise opposite of what the public wants. At the very least, politicians everywhere should abandon the idea of tax dollars for illegal laborers. Not only is it bad policy, but in this climate it could also be political suicide. Herndon’s new leadership takes this to heart. Its new mayor, Steve J. DeBenedittis, is on record saying that only legal workers should be allowed to frequent the town’s day-laborer center. The four new Town Council members — William B. Tirrell, Charlie B. Waddell, Connie Haines Hutchinson and David A. Kirby — ran to varying degrees as opponents of the center. They now have a clear mandate to scale back the old council’s actions.

The lesson for onlookers around the country should be apparent: Don’t help companies or private citizens hire illegal aliens. Above all, don’t spend tax dollars to do it. The only strong public mandate is to do the opposite of all this: Help tighten the enforcement of immigration laws.