Cities Coalition Calls for Immigration Reform

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), March 15, 2007 | Go to article overview

Cities Coalition Calls for Immigration Reform


Byline: Natasha Altamirano, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

The nation's oldest and largest coalition of municipal governments is calling on Congress to enact comprehensive immigration reform, including tougher federal enforcement.

The District-based National League of Cities this week announced its legislative platform on immigration at its five-day Congressional Cities Conference, which drew about 3,000 local government officials from around the country.

The federal government needs to implement a more uniform policy on immigration law enforcement to replace the current "hodgepodge" of enforcement policies developing at the local level, said Dennis P. Zine, a Los Angeles City Council member and chairman of the NLC's immigration task force.

Lax federal enforcement has forced cities to develop vastly different policies on illegal aliens, said Mr. Zine, who led a workshop Tuesday at the Hilton Washington on local government successes and challenges in addressing immigration.

The Gaithersburg City Council last month passed an anti-solicitation ordinance banning day laborers and employers from seeking work or hiring workers on streets and in parking lots. The Herndon Town Council passed a similar ordinance in 2005 before a partially tax-payer funded day-laborer center opened in town later that year.

The Gaithersburg ordinance, which applies to all workers but targets illegal aliens, will go into effect when a day-laborer center in Derwood opens, said Gaithersburg Council member Henry F. Marraffa Jr., who is on the NLC's immigration task force and its board of directors.

Montgomery County spokesman Patrick Lacefield said officials plan to hand over control of the center in the next week to CASA of Maryland, an immigrant-advocacy group which operates two other centers in the county and one in Prince George's County.

Christy Swanson, CASA's director of services, said the Derwood center is scheduled to open two weeks after CASA takes over.

Both the center and the anti-solicitation ordinance aim to solve a problem that has plagued Gaithersburg for years: the loitering of laborers, made up of mostly Hispanic immigrants and illegal aliens, in residential areas.

Gaithersburg Council member Geri Edens cast the lone dissenting vote against the law, which passed 4 to 1, because she questioned its legality.

"I really have problems with the law in that, as a lawyer, I don't think it's going to withstand scrutiny and I think it's going to be virtually impossible to apply . …

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