- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 16, 2007

The Herndon Town Council last night voted to continue running a taxpayer-funded day-laborer center while town officials continue to negotiate funding with Fairfax County and review a proposal for a new operator that will check workers’ legal status.

The seven-member council voted 6-1 shortly after 9 p.m. to approve a broad resolution that could allow Reston Interfaith to temporarily continue operating the Herndon Official Workers Center or allow the town to temporarily operate the center.

Mayor Stephen J. DeBenedittis said after the vote that nothing about the center or how it is operated will change until Sept. 14, when Reston Interfaith”s two-year contract expires.

“That’ll play out over the next few weeks, but again it”s important to note that nothing changes tomorrow,” Mr. DeBenedittis said.

Council member David A. Kirby was the lone dissenter for the vote, which came on the second night of a public hearing that began shortly after 10 p.m. Tuesday and included more than two hours of audience comment.

Reston Interfaith and its program that runs the center, Project Hope and Harmony, do not verify employment eligibility.

Reston Interfaith on Tuesday submitted a 30-day notice of intent to close the center because of Fairfax County’s recent decision to terminate a $175,000 funding contract. County officials earlier this month announced plans to pull funding because Herndon Vice Mayor Dennis D. Husch accused the county of infringing on the town’s sovereignty.

“The window is open to a different outcome if the town and county can come to terms on a plan for financial stability for the project,” said Bill Threlkeld, Project Hope and Harmony director in his address to the council Tuesday night.

Mr. Threlkeld said the council must first approve the permit extension to allow the continued operation of the center and also pass an additional resolution indicating a willingness to negotiate with Fairfax County supervisors.

Herndon’s anti-solicitation ordinance requires the presence of an official day-laborer site in order to remain in effect.

Herndon officials have issued three requests for proposals for a new operator and are reviewing one proposal from Dennis Baughan, a member of the anti-illegal-alien group Help Save Herndon.

Town resident Susan Powell, one of about 65 people who addressed the council, implored council members to accept Mr. Baughan’s proposal and mandate verification of workers’ legal status.

“We must set the example that we want the federal, state and county governments and businesses to mirror,” she said.

Resident Wayne Hise commended the council for “doing the job federal government dropped the ball on.”

Virginia Minuteman Director George Taplin said Tuesday night that the day-laborer center has led to increased crime in Herndon — contrary to promises from center supporters during public hearings before it opened in December 2005.

“The vast majority of day laborers in Herndon are Hispanic and the vast majority of day laborers in Herndon are illegal aliens,” Mr. Taplin said. “Since the vast majority of Herndon’s legal Hispanic community are law-abiding, family-oriented people, the sharp increase in crime among Hispanics in Herndon is primarily due to the illegal aliens moving here, attracted by the day-labor site.”

Elsewhere in Virginia, local government officials are following in the footsteps of Prince William and Loudoun counties, where supervisors last month passed resolutions to strengthen local immigration enforcement and deny public services to illegal aliens.

The Culpeper County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday passed a similar resolution, one week after declaring English as the county’s official language. The same day, the Spotsylvania County Board of Supervisors voted to find out how many illegal aliens live in the county, and what services the county may deny them.

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