- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 20, 2006

4:58 p.m.

Immigration rights activists in Gaithersburg today protested a crackdown on day laborers, but no arrests were made at the rally.

“The workers held a meeting and concluded that they did not want to risk arrest,” said Kim Propeack, a spokeswoman for CASA of Maryland, an immigrant advocacy group. “I think that people are afraid of being arrested, and certainly some people have immigration issues related to that.

“But I think that the workers are a really strong community to the extent that the members wouldnt want to create unrest,” she said. “They want to create a strategy that supports everyone.”

Miss Propeack was one of about three dozen laborers, religious leaders and supporters who marched to City Hall and demanded a meeting with City Manager David Humpton.

Police today began enforcing trespassing laws at the popular downtown hiring site after the owners of the lot and shopping center asked city and police officials to patrol the area amid pressure from nearby residents.

No arrests or citations were issued at the lot, where 50 to 100 men — many of them Hispanic illegal aliens — have gathered for years to look for work.

Residents complained that some of the men drank, urinated and trespassed on their property as they waited to be hired.

A police officer posted inside the lot each morning “for the next couple of weeks” will ticket or arrest on trespassing charges anyone who is not a customer of the plaza or church.

The officers will not check the immigration status of those they arrest.

Nearby church officials said laborers may wait on their front lawn for work, but police said contractors may not enter the lot or park on the main road or residential streets beside the church.

“So really what it boils down to from the day laborers perspective is theyre going to have to find another place to find pickups for hire,” said Gaithersburg Police Chief Mary Ann Viverette.

“This isnt an immigration issue. Its private property, and the owners have asked to get the shopping center back to normalcy,” Chief Viverette said. “Were not targeting day laborers. For us, its just an issue of trespassing.”

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