David Reyes came in the early chill yesterday to look for work at Herndon's day-laborer center, an almost daily routine for the 35-year-old immigrant from El Salvador. Instead of a Christmas Eve job, he found an unexpected holiday dinner.The Herndon Day Laborer Center caused quite a political upheaval as residents of the Herndon area voiced objections to a taxpayer-funded site which did not require immigrant workers to show proof of legal presence:
With several dozen other men who waited for the possibility of an afternoon gig, he munched on richly seasoned chicken and vegetables, salad and cake provided by a group of Muslim activists who wanted to support Northern Virginia's less fortunate.
Yesterday, the Northern Virginia Muslim Council focused on the town's largely Hispanic day laborers, who have been at the center of so much political passion in recent months.
"It's nice to see that someone cares, that we're supported when we look for work," Reyes said through an interpreter as he sipped on eggnog and sat with a small group of men who laughed and joked as they ate. He said he was aware of the heated rhetoric that has accompanied the day laborers in the town. "We just come to work, to make a living," he said, "and sometimes it feels like we are not wanted."...
In August 2005, after weeks of bitter community debate, the Town Council voted to open a publicly funded center to help a burgeoning population of immigrant day laborers find work.A bit of mixing of politics with Christmas dinner, though the meal was not likely called by that name; the article makes consistent reference to "holiday meal." Any ham for this "holiday meal"?
About nine months later, town voters unseated Mayor Michael O'Reilly and two council members who had supported establishing the center. They were replaced by critics of the center who want to ensure that it does not cater to illegal immigrants.
Now led by Mayor Stephen J. DeBenedittis, the council is searching for an operator for the center that will require workers to show legal documentation. This year, town officials considered applying for a federal program that would train some police officers to enforce U.S. immigration law, including the initiation of deportation proceedings.
Organizers of yesterday's dinner had two goals: to show solidarity with the laborers and spread holiday cheer to those in need.
Continuing now with the article, which has the obligatory quote from Mukit Hossain, about which Northern Virginiastan has blogged here, here, and here:
"These are people who are trying to put food on the table," said Mukit Hossain, who also founded Project Hope and Harmony, which runs the hiring center and which the council wants to replace.Mr. Hossain and some of his cohorts appear to care little about illegal immigration, whether or not it is a holiday season.
"There has been quite a brouhaha over these men, but at the end of the day, we have a moral obligation to reach out and support them," Hossain said...
Charity is a beautiful thing, but so is the rule of law.