- The Washington Times - Friday, March 10, 2006

The five major Democratic candidates for D.C. mayor say they would support establishing day-laborer centers similar to those in the Maryland and Virginia suburbs, even though those facilities have come under fire for helping illegal aliens.

“I would be extremely supportive of creating centers that help people look for day jobs and also an avenue to help people hire someone,” D.C. Council Chairman Linda W. Cropp told a crowd of about 500 people at the D.C. Latino Mayoral Forum.

“What the District of Columbia needs to do … is make sure we provide opportunities for alternative work styles,” Mrs. Cropp said. “It is healthier for everyone if the government would provide that access.”

The forum, which focused on Latino issues, was held Thursday at the Carlos Rosario International Career Center and Public Charter School in Northwest. It was organized by the Latino Political Action Committee and MAYA DC, a Hispanic communications firm.

Mrs. Cropp and the other major candidates — lobbyist Michael A. Brown, business executive Marie C. Johns, and council members Adrian M. Fenty and Vincent B. Orange Sr. — also discussed health care and affordable housing for Hispanics and a perceived rift between black and Hispanic communities.

Mr. Brown, who was endorsed recently by the Latino Coalition and who co-owned a Hispanic newspaper called La Nacion, said he has noticed blacks and Hispanics scrambling for jobs.

“The day laborer centers need to be for all people,” he said. “We have to stop the resentment that’s going on. We cannot continue to be adversaries; we have to be allies.”

Mrs. Johns said she would push for language courses and job training at the centers so laborers would not get “stuck” in low-wage jobs.

“I am in support of anything that is going to help people work,” she said. “When people come here, are new to our city, we need to make sure they can take care of themselves.”

The candidates vowed to elevate Hispanics to the upper ranks of government, if elected.

The District’s 53,000 Hispanics make up about 10 percent of the city’s population but represent less than 1 percent of government positions, forum organizers said.

Mr. Orange, who heads the Office of Latino Affairs, said he “absolutely” would appoint a Latino police chief or “at least” an assistant police chief, if elected. “It doesn’t make sense to have a police department that can’t communicate with its citizens,” he said.

All of the candidates except Mr. Orange said they oppose a bill that would define what constitutes a family and would allow inspections of houses to restrict overcrowding in Hyattsville. Last month, Manassas repealed a similar law after civil rights and housing groups said it unfairly targeted Hispanics, immigrants and illegal aliens.

“Too often people forget that we all are immigrants,” Mr. Fenty said.

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