- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 6, 2005

ANNAPOLIS — Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. says he would consider supporting legislation that would bar day-labor centers from aiding illegal aliens.

“We would certainly look at it,” said Mr. Ehrlich, a Republican. Illegal immigration “is increasingly an issue for states around the country.”

Baltimore Mayor Martin O’Malley, who announced his candidacy for governor last week, has refused to answer questions about such legislation.

His likely challenger for the Democratic nomination, Montgomery County Executive Douglas M. Duncan, has yet to see the proposal but generally does not support “trickle down enforcement” of immigration laws, a county spokesman said yesterday.

“The federal government needs to do its job,” said spokesman David S. Weaver.

Mr. Duncan made similar remarks in August when he said local governments should embrace illegal immigrants in the community and leave immigration enforcement to federal authorities.

Mr. Ehrlich said Mr. Duncan’s views were out of line with those of most Marylanders.

The Duncan campaign did not respond to requests for a direct statement from Mr. Duncan.

Montgomery County now has two taxpayer-funded day-laborer centers and a third is expected to open later this month in Gaithersburg.

Baltimore officials are looking for a place to open a center but have not decided how to pay for it.

The legislation, which will be introduced by Delegate Patrick L. McDonough in next year’s General Assembly, would require the centers to screen for illegal immigrants, deny them services and prevent employers from unlawfully hiring them.

“Taxpayers are being forced to subsidize lawbreakers,” said Mr. McDonough, Baltimore County Republican.

The bill likely will fail in the Democrat-controlled assembly, but the issue is expected to resonate in next year’s campaigns.

State lawmakers in recent years have rejected more than a dozen bills by Mr. McDonough and others seeking restrictions on illegal immigrants in Maryland, including one last session to deny them driver’s licenses.

Maryland’s illegal alien population has doubled in the last five years, to about 250,000. The population in the United States increased from 8.4 million to 10.3 million during the same period.

Critics of Mr. Duncan and Mr. O’Malley say they encourage illegal immigrants to settle in their jurisdictions, despite them competing with citizens for jobs, adding to school overcrowding and increasing the burden on taxpayers.

Mr. Ehrlich has also been criticized for his stance on illegal immigration, particularly his comment last year that multiculturalism is “bunk” and for vetoing a 2003 bill allowing illegal aliens to pay in-state tuition at state universities.

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