Art Jackson’s job as a moderator at the Ferlazzo building Saturday was to keep the town hall meeting focused.
Prince William Supervisor Hilda Barg, D-Woodbridge, called the meeting to discuss the arrests of 26 day laborers last month for loitering at the 7-Eleven at Longview Drive and U.S. 1 in Woodbridge.
People who stood to speak at the meeting occasionally strayed to talk about terrorism, the sorry state of the immigration law in general and the economic impact of illegal immigrants.
But Barg called the meeting to try and find a solution to the problem in Woodbridge.
“People come with a lot of emotion and a lot of concern. It’s hard to keep them on track,” said Jackson, a motivational speaker who volunteered to moderate the town hall meeting.
“We’re talking about the day-laborer site at the 7-Eleven on Route 1, not about someone coming across the border in California,” Jackson said after the meeting.
The men arrested were part of a group that gathers daily at Covenant Presbyterian Church on Longview Drive at U.S. 1 where they have permission to wait for contractors who come by and offer work.
Police said they receive complaints of people loitering, being drunk and urinating in public when the day laborers leave the church property and congregate at the convenience store.
Area civil rights organizations were angered when some of those arrested were turned over to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service for prior immigration violations.
The audience seemed to be well split by an ideological chasm with very little real estate in the middle.
Andrew Costa, of Woodbridge, said the solution is simple.
“It’s clearly posted. It says, ‘No Loitering’ period,’ “ the 42-year-old Woodbridge man said of the sign at the convenience store.
“The bottom line is this, you follow the law. You enforce the law,” Costa said.
Costa encouraged the police to be at the 7-Eleven Monday morning to arrest every loiterer there.
“I expect to see the law enforced,” he said.
April Gallop who lives near the convenience store wondered if the immigrants weren’t receiving special treatment.
“Why can’t day laborers go to temp services or employment offices?” the 33-year-old Woodbridge woman asked.
“There are other people who don’t have cars and have to get to work. They walk and they catch the bus,” she said.
Gallop said the only problem she’s noticed from the day laborers hanging out at the store is a littering problem.
Jean Reynolds stood to ask if people weren’t being a little hard on the immigrants.
Others in the county are allowed to gather in the morning without fear of arrest, said Reynolds, a mental health counselor.
“People form up for a purpose,” the 54-year-old Woodbridge woman said.
The day workers gathering to wait for work is no different than slugs waiting for a ride, she said.
“What are they doing at the commuter lots if they’re not loitering?” she asked with predictable reactions from those on either side the chasm.
The immigrants should be allowed to gather in facilities similar to those commuters enjoy.
“They need to be able to do that in a way that’s safe and in a way that doesn’t upset the neighbors,” she said of the day laborers.
Adgar Gonzalez, a 2001 Republican candidate for the 49th District of the Virginia House of Delegates, said he was caught up in the October arrests when he stopped to talk to several of the day laborers at the store.
“I went to the 7-Eleven, got a Coke. I was coming out, two police officers came behind me and I was detained,” the 48-year-old Lake Ridge Man said.
Police released Gonzales after they saw his identification. He said he wasn’t surprised that he was detained. It’s happened to him before.
He said arresting people won’t help.
“We need to create solutions,” Gonzales said of immigration.
“This is not going to stop here. More people are going to be coming to this country. Legal or illegal, so we need to start working together,” he said.
Prince William Police Chief Charlie T. Deane said he agreed with Gonzales.
“We know and have repeatedly said that arrests are not a permanent solution, but we have to deal with issues that impact our community,” Deane said.
“We’re pleased to have a community meeting to address the issues,” Deane said.
Ricardo Juarez, of the Woodbridge Workers Committee, an immigrants’ rights organization, came to the meeting with 34 day laborers who listened to the proceedings through electronic translation devices.
Juarez said he and the others attended the meeting to help find a “concrete” solution to the problem faced by the immigrants.
Juarez also called for county authorities and police to suspend the arrests of the immigrant workers.
“We stand by and defend the liberty we have by virtue of being born humans; we defend our struggle to search for our daily bread,” Juarez said.
Three more men were arrested Monday at the 7-Eleven, said Capt. Tim Rudy, Prince William police.
Police officers went to the convenience store twice after 10 a.m. and told the men they had to leave, Rudy said.
The men were arrested when the police went back a third time and found them still at the store.
One of the men was released on his own recognizance, one bonded out and the other was released on a summons, Deane said.
Rudy said police would continue to respond to citizen’s complaints.
We’re going to field complaints, address complaints and take it on a day-to-day basis,” he said.
Lyle Spencer, Press-Enterprise (Riverside, Ca.), Nov. 20
TEMECULA—About 25 protesters waved placards with slogans decrying undocumented immigrants. Nearby stood a half-dozen men, protesting the protesters.
Each came Saturday morning to the intersection of Rancho California and Butterfield Stage roads with a vision and version of the American Dream, each determined to give voice to an intensely emotional issue: the right to hire out as day laborers.
This corner near the wineries became a flashpoint after Temecula Mayor Mike Naggar contacted the U.S. Border Patrol in September proposing that several day laborer hiring sites ought to be cleared of illegal aliens.
“Our goal,” said Arne Chandler of Citizens’ Alliance for a Secure America, “has been to put some pressure on Mayor Naggar and the City Council. I got here at 7:30, and there were about 50 illegals. They quickly dispersed. The ones left are a small minority.”
James Aaron Sosa, 24, and Victor Manuel Gomez, 20, said they are American citizens who drive from Oceanside on weekends to earn $100 to $200. Gomez parlayed one weekend task into a full-time job with a Temecula detailing company.
“Eighty percent of the people who come here have their green cards,” Sosa said.
Peter Anthony Torres, 24, of Temecula, landed a construction job as a result of his weekend labor. “We’re helping homeowners and learning skills,” Torres said. “We’re not doing anything wrong or illegal.”
“As a result of this picketing,” said Ed Villanueva, 37, of Temecula, “three-fourths of the people who came here today won’t be able to pay for something or feed their family.”
Harsh words were exchanged, but Robin Hvidstom of Temecula assured the workers that the targets are undocumented immigrants occupying classrooms and hospital beds without paying taxes.
Jose Jaime Castilla, 51, said he has hired out regularly during his two decades in Temecula as a maintenance and construction worker.
“Twenty years ago, there was nothing here,” Castilla said. “Do you know who built Temecula? Latinos. People like us. We’re trying to support our families. It isn’t easy. Look at my hands. They’re destroyed.”