- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Maryland’s largest immigrant advocacy group is on track to open a permanent day-laborer center in Prince George’s County this summer, despite delays to make the facility handicapped-accessible.

The project, led by CASA of Maryland Inc., has faced setbacks because of failure to comply with the federal Americans with Disabilities Act.

Jennifer Freedman, CASA’s director of development, said yesterday that the center, which will be located in the basement of the Langley Park Shopping Center, is scheduled to open July 1. The center is near the intersection of University Boulevard and New Hampshire Avenue.

“We’re working with the appropriate agencies to make sure that we comply with all codes, and we anticipate that the center should open on time,” Ms. Freedman said. “We’re working with the appropriate counterparts at the county and state to make sure that we’re within all guidelines or regulations. … This is a routine part of the process, dealing with situations that may arise, and you address them as appropriate.”

Similar to CASA’s day-laborer centers in Silver Spring and Wheaton, the $600,000 center in Langley Park will offer job placement, vocational training andlegal services, she said.

Critics said it was ironic that CASA was willing to comply with building code regulations but not federal immigration laws. Day-laborer centers are used primarily by illegal aliens looking for temporary work.

CASA, which was established about 20 years ago and receives public funds, does not monitor the citizenship status of its clients, who are predominantly Hispanic.

“They know that [Immigration and Customs Enforcement] is so overwhelmed with going after fugitives and other aliens that they don’t have time to raid their day-laborer centers,” said Stephen Schreiman, director of the Maryland Minuteman Civil Defense Corps, which opposes publicly funded services for illegal aliens.

CASA also plans to open its fourth day-laborer center near the intersection of Shady Grove Road and Crabbs Branch Way in Montgomery County. The county’s Planning Board endorsed the temporary center at a public hearing last week.

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