- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 17, 2007

If at first you don’t succeed, try 29 more times. That was Gaithersburg’s failed approach to the issue of day-labor centers catering to illegal aliens, which city officials proposed for 30 different locations in 2006, each time facing an angry phalanx of local opposition. They finally gave up the ghost in November. Newly installed Montgomery County Executive Isiah “Ike” Leggett seems to have learned nothing from that experience.

Or, more to the point, Mr. Leggett’s lesson is to build the thing just past city limits, where those nettlesome Gaithersburgers and their NIMBYism cannot stop it. As has been reported in recent weeks, Mr. Leggett is determined to get a center built. His deputies have identified locations near Shady Grove Road and Route 355 just over the border from Gaithersburg on the presumption that this time, the locals won’t object to a day-labor center. The obvious lesson — that people simply don’t want a taxpayer-funded day-labor center — was not learned.

Maybe the new locations will pass the NIMBY gauntlet, maybe not. What’s more certain is that these centers are still of dubious legality and can bring a host of troubles that Montgomery County officials probably aren’t even considering.

At root, they serve to enlist local government as a collaborator in the breaking of federal immigration law. They mean taxpayer largesse for illegal aliens who circumvent the law and a free service for the scofflaw business owners too cheap to hire legal immigrants. This is reprehensible, and reason enough to oppose it. The nation’s current illegal-alien conundrum may be the fault of the federal government headed by an open-borders White House and a weak-willed Congress — we certainly think it is — but that doesn’t absolve states and localities of the duty to honor federal legal strictures.

There are good practical reasons to oppose these centers as well. For one, they attract lawsuits, like the conservative group Judicial Watch’s filing against Fairfax County in 2005 on behalf of Herndon residents. As the national immigration debate evolves, it’s a fair bet that lawsuits will continue to be filed against cities and towns that attempt to operate in indirect or outright violation of federal law.

The other practical reason — at least for politicians — is that these centers can get an official thrown out of the executive suites and upend carefully planned community agendas. In Herndon, for example, the mayor and the three most vocal proponents on the Herndon Town Council were turned out the following year in a vote generally accepted as a referendum on the handling of the day-labor issue. The issue can develop legs and head in a direction no elected leader could anticipate.

Mr. Leggett should honor the will of area residents. The people of Gaithersburg obviously do not want this ill-advised day-labor center. Building it next door is just a cynical way of circumventing them.

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