- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 19, 2001

Area day laborers who on Tuesday lost their usual place to wait for potential employers yesterday got a look at a new location two miles away in Takoma Park. Md.
Francisco Pacheco, employment director for the nonprofit Latino rights group CASA de Maryland, said about 250 workers went to the old spot in a Langley Park shopping center parking lot because they didn't know about the new location in the parking lot of an unoccupied office building in the 6500 block of New Hampshire Avenue.
The group and the city of Takoma Park signed a six-month lease for the space. An earlier agreement allowing the men to gather in the parking lot of a Takoma Park shopping center — just across the street from the Langley Park spot — expired Tuesday.
Mr. Pacheco expects the workers, mostly Hispanic immigrants, to move once word spreads about the new location, which offers at least one major advantage: bathrooms.
About 80 workers were sent in CASA vans yesterday to scout out the new spot, Mr. Pacheco said.
"The response was pretty positive, " Mr. Pacheco said. He also said about 10 workers refused to try out the new space.
Rigoberto Sanchez, a 42-year-old worker from El Salvador who has lived in Langley Park for 10 years, was one of the men to check out the space.
"I like it. It's a big space that employers can see," he said.
Mr. Sanchez was then shuttled back to the old site to tell the other workers. He said most of them "seemed happy" when he described the larger area.
But he is "a little worried" about employers not coming to the new site. He thinks that the police and the media attention have already scared off many.
Takoma Park police had threatened to arrest and fine the workers if they did not move.
Prince George's County police have allowed the workers to gather in the Langley Park parking lot, but said they would break up the group if it got too big. On average, 300 to 400 people show up to find work Monday through Saturday.
CASA officials have claimed that Prince George's police officers have verbally threatened workers. In one case, they said a recently arrived worker was physically assaulted by a Prince George's officer when the worker did not understand his orders.
In the past week, the number of employers coming to the lot to pick up workers has dropped by 50 percent, Mr. Pacheco said. He attributed it to the increased police presence. Typically, there are five Prince George's police cars present at the old site.
"They started intimidating the employers by threatening them with tickets and taking down their license-plate numbers, " he said.
CASA officials will be directing workers and employers to the new space for the next few days. They will also post signs with the new address and offer van service.

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