Loitering Charges Against Day Laborers Dropped

AP, Jan. 14

WOODBRIDGE, Va.—A group of Latino day laborers who were charged in a crackdown on loitering will have their charges dismissed if they abide by the law for the next month, a judge ruled Thursday.

Prince William County officials will use the 30-day delay to figure out a way to accommodate both the workers who gather at the Woodbridge 7-11 in search of work each day, and those who consider them a nuisance.

Workers will be allowed to stand on one side of the convenience store in the morning and enter the parking lot when contractors arrive. If there are no complaints, the police department will not conduct sweeps there.

In exchange for the dropped charges, the American Civil Liberties Union agreed to withdraw a motion challenging the constitutionality of the county’s anti-loitering ordinance. The compromise was reached just before the trial was scheduled to begin in Prince William County General District Court.

“The ACLU winning the case would not have solved the problem,” defense lawyer John Zwerling said. “I’m pleased that the commonwealth’s attorney’s office was willing to work with us to find a solution.”

Prince William County police arrested the laborers in October, about three months after a new Virginia law gave state and local police the authority to arrest illegal immigrants without a warrant.

Diane Hume, 7-Eleven’s loss prevention specialist for northern Virginia, said the chain wanted to reach a compromise with the workers. The store is a popular stop for contractors and is located near a neighborhood where many laborers live.

The county has named a task force to recommend a long-term solution.

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