Page 2 of 2   <      

Day laborer jobs center would quiet some of the immigration debate in Centreville

"I don't know what the correct solution is," Vorce conceded. He said it wouldn't be acceptable to "send out the National Guard and round them up, Nazi-style."

Rayman Hamid, 47, a leading opponent of the jobs center, said the solution could be amnesty instead of deportation.

"The government needs to take a stand one way or the other," said Hamid, a Guyanese immigrant who owns a Baskin-Robbins store near the proposed site. "Illegals aren't going away, because contractors are going to keep hiring them because they're cheaper."

The standoff will continue until Congress finds enough political courage to compromise on comprehensive immigration reform. Anybody who follows the subject already knows what the deal will look like. Conservatives have to swallow some kind of amnesty. Liberals have to accept genuinely tough sanctions, especially against employers who hire illegal immigrants. The nation needs a guest-worker program that expands or restricts temporary immigration according to the economy's needs.

In the meantime, count on regular outbreaks of bitterness and ill will like the one in Centreville. A substantial majority of people attending a public meeting on the subject Tuesday were outspokenly critical of the center.

My own sympathies, on balance, are with the immigrants. The vast majority come to America to work long hours at unattractive jobs to earn a better life for themselves and their families. Only a few come to sponge off the welfare state.

That said, the immigrants' presence in Centreville has unquestionably been a nuisance, and their own bad behavior is partly to blame. Numerous people complained that men awaiting jobs regularly intimidated women and girls with leers, ogling and lecherous comments.

The problem has been particularly bad outside the Centreville Regional Library, near a housing complex where many day laborers live.

"It was scary to come to the library. I'd tell my daughter, who's 14, 'Hey, don't go outside,' " said Pamela Jordan, 39.

Center supporter Foltz said he couldn't defend such conduct. But he said it would be easier to prevent such problems if the day laborers were supervised at an established venue.

That's a good point, which underlines why it's better overall to have the center than not. Yes, it's maddening to tolerate lawbreaking. Given that mass arrests are even less desirable, it's better to put the day laborers in a double-wide than have them hanging out on the street.

<       2

© 2010 The Washington Post Company