- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Maryland lawmakers provided few answers to Wheaton residents seeking an end to overcrowded homes, a parking shortage and other problems created by what they say is an influx of illegal aliens in their community.

“Every single issue that you all have raised is a local county issue,” Delegate Ana Sol Gutierrez, Montgomery County Democrat, said at a community meeting Thursday at Wheaton High School. “None of us sitting up here can do anything about it. Immigration is a federal issue.”

State Sen. Richard Stuart Madaleno Jr., Montgomery County Democrat, yesterday also deferred to the county to resolve the problems.

“Most of the next steps are all at the county level, and I think the county is beginning to look at whether or not its zoning regulations … are effective any longer,” he said.

He also blamed neighborhood failures to meet the needs of changing demographics.

Mr. Madaleno attended the community meeting with Ms. Gutierrez, Delegate Jane E. Lawton and Delegate Jeffrey D. Waldstreicher, also Montgomery County Democrats.

“Delegate Waldstreicher and I happen to live in the same neighborhood,” Mr. Madaleno said. “And I know his street, which is like the oldest street in our neighborhood, has no sidewalks and no driveways and was designed in an era when most families only had one car.”

The county’s housing code does not regulate the number of related persons who can live in a single residence, said Kevin Martell, housing code field supervisor.

Montgomery County Executive Isiah “Ike” Leggett, a Democrat, has made code enforcement a priority and included an additional housing-code inspector in his budget, Natalie Cantor, director of the Mid-County Regional Services Center, said yesterday.

The center serves as a liaison between the county executive’s office and the community.

“Right now, we do have certain abilities under our code, but we also have been short-staffed so that even when the code would allow certain kinds of enforcement, there wasn’t a staff to do it,” Mrs. Cantor said. “The question about making the code more stringent is a whole separate issue.”

Resident Nicholas Breul said his property value is plummeting because of frequent evictions and property condemnations at homes occupied by alien families.

“My neighborhood is in a decline,” he said before roughly 50 people at the community meeting. “The Wheaton area is in a decline.”

Almost all of the speakers noted that multiple families are cramming into single-family homes.

“These buildings are 50 years old and just not equipped to handle that,” one woman said.

Other community members want to stop commercial vehicles from parking on residential streets and congesting roads.

Resident John Rush said the issues are prevalent “not only in this community, but nationwide.”

“We have got to crack down on illegal immigrants,” he said.

The discussion grew heated toward the end of the more than two-hour meeting, with audience members calling out from their seats and interrupting one another.

“Is there actually a plan?” resident Jerry McCarthy asked. “This is not being solved — and that’s the problem.”

The immigrant-advocacy group CASA of Maryland operates three day-labor centers in Montgomery County, including one at University Boulevard and Veirs Mill Road in Wheaton. The nonprofit group’s newest center, outside Gaithersburg, recently was damaged by a deliberately set fire.

The centers offer job placement, vocational training and legal services for primarily Hispanics. CASA, which was established about 20 years ago and receives public funds, says it does not monitor the citizenship status of its clients.

Montgomery County is not alone in its battle on how to address the country’s estimated 12 million to 20 million illegal aliens.

In Fairfax County, the town of Herndon has been at the forefront of the illegal-alien debate since it opened a day-labor center in 2005 that is partially funded with tax dollars.

Town lawmakers recently have taken a tougher stance on illegal aliens by signing up for federal training in immigration-enforcement procedures.

Concerned residents have formed grass-roots organizations aimed at reducing the numbers of illegal aliens in Herndon and in Loudoun and Prince William counties.

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