Hate Calls Swamp Herndon Town Hall

Lisa Rein, Washington Post, Aug. 6

Herndon Town Hall unplugged its phone lines yesterday after listeners of a talk show on WMAL-AM flooded the switchboard with what officials said were hate calls against a proposed day-laborer site.

The phones began ringing nonstop about 9:30 a.m., officials said, just after a substitute host on “The Michael Graham Show” called the proposed gathering spot for immigrant workers a “day-care center for illegal criminal aliens” and urged listeners to complain to Herndon Mayor Michael L. O’Reilly.

“You need to help . . . Mayor O’Reilly understand he’s advocating breaking the law . . . and assisting criminal aliens who are in this country destroying this country, stealing jobs, running drugs, raping people. This is not an approved activity for the mayor of Herndon, Virginia,” host Mark Williams said, according to an audio recording on the station’s Web site. Williams broadcast from KFBK-AM in Sacramento.

He then read aloud the telephone number of Town Hall dozens of times and urged listeners to “melt that switchboard” and picket O’Reilly’s law office a block away.

“We didn’t have any second thoughts about pulling the plug” on the Town Hall phones, said Town Manager Steve Owens, reached late yesterday on his personal line. “This was a tsunami.” The volume of calls threatened to crash the phone system of the small building, he said, and the comments were offensive. “They were vile and resembled hate speech. . . They were anti-immigrant,” Owens said.

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Day Labor Center Proposal Stirs National Debate

Samson Habte, Examiner (Washington DC), Aug. 7

It’s not every day that a state legislator is featured on a national cable news program.

But there was Prince William County Del. Scott Lingamfelter last week, appearing on CNN’s “Lou Dobbs Tonight” to discuss a proposal to build a day laborer hiring center in Herndon—a plan critics say will encourage illegal immigration.

“My position is we should not be spending taxpayer money to finance that which is really subsidizing what is an illegal activity,” said Lingamfelter, a Dale City Republican.

Lingamfelter’s cameo should not have been surprising: The day laborer debate has thrust Herndon into the national spotlight. Politicians and interest groups from all over the country have weighed in on a local land-use issue that has been a proxy for debates over illegal immigration.

The debate reached a crescendo in Herndon last week. Herndon’s Planning Commission decided early Thursday morning—after hours of public testimony—to recommend against approval of the facility, which would be built with a $170,000 grant from Fairfax County. Herndon’s Town Council will vote on final approval Aug. 16.

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