Day Labor Protests Persist

Day Labor Protests Persist

Opponents, supporters of Herndon's official hiring center voice opinions.

While the weather may not have been as cold as it was for the opening day of Herndon's Official Workers' Center, the number of protesters in front of the site early Saturday, Jan. 7, seemed about the same.

Starting at 7 a.m., a number of protesters against the creation of the regulated hiring center began to fill the sidewalk along Sterling Road. As day workers came from the Herndon Parkway toward the site, protesters held anti-illegal immigration signs, American flags, cameras and video recorders — and cups of steaming coffee.

At the entrance to the site stood Ruth Tatlock, Herndon resident and supporter of the day workers. Representing H.E.A.R.T. — Herndon Embraces All with Respect and Tolerance — Tatlock held a single sign reading "Tolerance." Next to Tatlock was another man holding a sign that indicated the site was now open for business.

Roughly 40 feet down the sidewalk from Tatlock stood a clump of protesters representing Herndon's Minutemen, Help Save Herndon members and other town and Loudoun County residents in opposition to the site.

While the demonstration remained quiet, the contrasting opinions displayed on cardboard and plastic signs were loud enough to speak for themselves.

"WE SUPPORT the Herndon Minutemen and Help Save Herndon and consider ourselves, if not members, certainly supporters," said Nathan Muller, Loudoun County resident.

Founder of the "For the Cause," a Web site that tracks illegal immigration issues throughout the country and legislation on Capitol Hill, Muller and his wife Linda were responsible for Saturday's demonstration. Through their connections with the Web site, which also releases an e-newsletter on immigration issues, the Mullers learned of a demonstration being organized by a Connecticut resident. Called "Stop the Invasion," the demonstration asked groups like the Minutemen and other anti-illegal immigration activists to protest day-labor sites across the country. Nationwide 43 groups in 20 states participated in the protest, according to Muller.

"We think it is important to take a stand and to put some action behind our opposition," said Muller. "And, to do it in a public way."

George Taplin, Herndon resident and president of Herndon's Minutemen was also present for the demonstration.

"I believe we're having a really positive impact and that the workers understand that the jobs are drying up," said Taplin about the Minutemen's presence on site. "People are starting to realize that this is not going to work in Herndon. Project Hope & Harmony is going to say that this is because of weather ... but I don't buy the excuse of weather."

ON THE OTHER side of the debate — and only a few feet away — Herndon and Loudoun residents stood with signs promoting the site.

Learning of the demonstration from the Internet, the protesters of the protesters tried to offer a "balanced presence," said Tim Kendall, Herndon resident and H.E.A.R.T. member.

"This town has been getting what we consider bad press," he said. "I frankly think that the majority of Herndon does not share the antipathy toward this operation that some people hold."

Intending for the demonstrations to remain peaceful, the H.E.A.R.T. representatives kept their backs to the opposition. If things were to heat up, which they did not, the group planned to leave.

"Where there's confusion and incomprehension," said Sarah Kendall, Herndon resident, "there's going to be animosity."

Away from the demonstrations, business on-site ran as usual as approximately 60 workers waited for employment.

Even with the protests, Saturday was the largest hiring day for the workers with 37 hires, according to Joel Mills, Project Hope & Harmony executive council member.

"It's much better here because at the old site it was total disorder," said Jose Guzman, Herndon day worker.

For the last four years, Guzman went to the old site, at the corner of Alabama Drive and Elden Street, to wait for work.

Just like at the old site, the winter months are always the hardest to find work, Guzman said.

"In winter, we know well that most of the companies close down for winter so work becomes less usual," said the El Salvadorian native. "This happens every winter, so I'm not worried."