- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 13, 2005

The mayor of Herndon said he expects a center for 150 day laborers to open within 90 days after the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to spend $400,000 for a group to manage the site and two others in the county.

But a national watchdog group that is suing the town on behalf of six of its residents pledged yesterday to also take Fairfax County to court and to stop any efforts to open the center.

“We’re not going to let that occur,” said Chris Farrell, director of investigations and research for Judicial Watch, a D.C.-based nonprofit public interest law firm.

“If they get anywhere near becoming open, beginning to staff it or man it, we’ll go into court and pursue either a preliminary injunction or a temporary restraining order.”

Mr. Farrell said the funding of the day laborer centers violates federal law prohibiting employers from hiring undocumented workers or encouraging illegal immigration.

Mr. Farrell expressed those concerns to supervisors at a public hearing Monday night in Fairfax County. After the hearing, the board set aside $400,000 from the county’s $3 billion budget to fund day laborer sites in Herndon and in the Culmore and Annandale districts of the county.

Herndon Mayor Michael O’Reilly said yesterday that he was not surprised by the vote.

“I had fully expected it,” he said. “We had been working with Fairfax County for over a year to see if we could have a countywide approach to this day laborer phenomenon.”

The new center in Herndon, at 1481 Sterling Road, would provide restrooms and offer day laborers English classes and access to social workers.

The lawsuit is not the only obstacle standing in the way of opening the day laborer center in Herndon.

Last week, neighboring Loudoun County’s zoning administrator issued an opinion stating that Loudoun officials also would have to approve the day laborer site because it would be serviced by roads originating within the county.

Mr. O’Reilly said that the town was considering its options and working cooperatively with Loudoun officials to resolve the issue. He said some options include appealing the zoning ruling, attempting to get a boundary adjustment from the state or making the access from Loudoun County permanently inaccessible.

In addition, a county law that prohibits the use of public funds for providing services to illegal immigrants goes into effect Jan. 6.

“There’s considerable debate about whether that law applies or does not apply,” Mr. O’Reilly said. He expects the disputes to drag on indefinitely but not hold up the opening of the day laborer center.

The Herndon Town Council last month approved a proposal by Project Hope and Harmony, a group of churches and community leaders, to open the center in a trailer at the site of the town’s defunct police station.

The council approved the permit for one year. Project Hope and Harmony can ask for three, one-year extensions.

The council set as a condition for approval a requirement that the center provide all employers with a brochure that would state when they must check documentation.

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