- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 20, 2005

Herndon, Virginia-area residents concerned about illegal immigration met last night to organize a new chapter of the Minutemen, a group that gained notice across the country when its members began patrolling the U.S.-Mexico border.

Organizer George Taplin said those who met at the Herndon Fort Nightly Library are opposed to the taxpayer-funded, day-laborer center that town officials want to build, and want to expose employers, landlords and others who would exploit legal immigrants and illegal aliens at the center.

“This summer it came to a head,” said Mr. Taplin, a retired Navy officer. “I saw what was happening in terms of the Town Council and the mayor not paying attention to the constituency and I tried to get people to step up and do something about it.”

Mr. Taplin said he decided to take charge because many were eager to act but reluctant to lead. He arrived at a basic plan by searching the Internet and finding information on “Operation Spotlight” in Houston.

The operation involved Minutemen members in Houston helping to close formal day-laborer centers by videotaping and photographing illegal aliens, tracking license plates of the employers who hired them and reporting findings to immigration and tax authorities, Mr. Taplin said.

“The goal there is to spotlight employers who are using illegals for their purpose and breaking the law,” he said. “The consensus is if jobs weren’t here, illegals wouldn’t come. The focus here is to dry up the jobs by reporting employers to enforcement authorities.”

Problems began in Herndon when day laborers, including illegal aliens, began loitering outside a 7-Eleven store.

In response, town officials agreed to build a center, which was slated to open in mid-September on the Fairfax County line and would offer English classes and access to social workers. It would not check the immigration status of laborers.

Six residents, including Mr. Taplin, have since blocked the center by filing a lawsuit through national watchdog group Judicial Watch.

Herndon’s operation would also create a network of observers, informants, lawyers and retired law-enforcement personnel to help crack down on illegal aliens.

“Realistically what we’re looking for is the people who are going to get out on the street and make their presence known to let the employers know we’re not going to let them get away with this,” Mr. Taplin said. “We want to make sure that Herndon stays a law-abiding town.”

Members of the Herndon-area chapter would also photograph employers hiring illegal aliens at the town day-laborer center, follow them to work sites and report them to the Internal Revenue Service, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and state employment agencies.

It will also monitor zoning violations, identify cases in which absentee landlords rent to illegals in violation of boarding ordinances and investigate instances of city officials offering public services to illegals.

“The biggest issue here is if we can report these things to the proper enforcement agencies and if we run into a situation where they’re not doing anything, we can report that as well,” Mr. Taplin said.

He said the chapter will provide training, strategy and tactics information to volunteers.

In Maryland, residents and city officials in Gaithersburg are dealing with a similar issue.

Officials planned to open a day-labor center in the downtown, but canceled plans after residents complained and Montgomery County withdrew its support.

Nationally, the “Secure Our Borders” Minuteman program, which began this month, has more than 4,200 civilian members patrolling borders from California to Texas and in eight northern states.

Members have helped deter thousands trying to illegally enter the U.S. and have helped the U.S. Border Patrol take hundreds of illegal aliens into custody, said Minuteman program spokeswoman Connie Hair.

Amy Doolittle contributed to this article.

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