As a divided U.S. Senate prepares to debate federal immigration legislation on Capitol Hill, area officials from 10 Maryland and Virginia jurisdictions expressed unity on the benefits of day labor centers and immigration reform during the Regional Day Labor Summit Part II held at the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments (COG). The participants said they will urge their jurisdictions to consider regulated day labor centers as a tool for local governments to use in managing what is becoming a growing issue in many localities throughout the region.
In addition, many participants noted that the local day labor issue is linked to the broader national immigration issue. They expressed hope that Congress would reject any legislation of a punitive nature or that imposes unrealistic demands on local governments. At its next meeting on April 12, the COG Board of Directors will be briefed on the summit and receive recommendations from its participants.
“This will continue to be an issue and the number of day laborers will continue to grow because we have a dynamic, successful economy in this region,” said George Leventhal, Montgomery County Council President, whose jurisdiction has supported day labor centers for several years. “It’s our responsibility as local officials to think about how we can practically manage this situation.”
During today’s summit, representatives of CASA of Maryland, the Shirlington Employment and Education Center, and Volunteers of America shared details on the creation and administration of day labor centers with the audience of area officials. Participants also discussed the concerns that their constituents have expressed on the topic and how to best respond to them.
“We need to put a face on immigration and on the day labor issue,” said Fairfax County Supervisor Penelope Gross. She said that COG and local governments need to work on educating the public about the benefits that immigrants bring to the region.
Officials and representatives from Prince William County, Alexandria, Arlington County, Fairfax County, Herndon, Montgomery County, Prince George’s County, Greenbelt, Rockville and Takoma Park attended the all-day summit, a follow-up to the one held by COG last November 17.