A group of Takoma Park residents said last night that they may ask city officials to open a city-sanctioned "staging area" for illegal immigrant day laborers to provide them with protection from arrest while they are seeking work.
The move came in response to recent raids by the Immigration and Naturalization Service, which arrested 33 illegal immigrants last month near an informal gathering spot for day laborers in nearby Silver Spring.
That gathering place, outside a convenience store at Piney Branch Road and University Boulevard, is considered the largest of its kind in Maryland, an INS official said.
Each morning up to 150 immigrants, many of whom cannot legally work in this country, gather to seek temporary employment from contractors, landscapers and private citizens. The spot is one of a growing number spawned by changes in immigration laws that made it more difficult for illegal immigrants to find jobs.
Central American Solidarity and Assistance of Maryland, a social service agency, called the meeting in the Takoma Park City Council Chamber to discuss community response to the raids.
One resident asked if the Silver Spring gathering place could be moved to Takoma Park.
In response, Daniel A. Katz, executive director of the Central American Refugee Center in Washington, suggested the creation of the city-sponsored staging area, which supporters said would give governmental support to the job seekers and possibly discourage arrests by other agencies.
"It's important for local communities and local officials to say people have a right to earn an honest day's living," Katz said after the meeting.
Lael Parish, director of Central American Solidarity and Assistance, said after the meeting that residents probably would approach the City Council with the idea.
The idea for a staging area is modeled on an approach taken in Los Angeles, where an increasing number of day-laborer pickup sites have emerged. In response to community complaints about the sites, the Los Angeles City Council established several locations where the laborers could gather.
That action raised the ire of INS officials.