During an early morning campaign stop in Reston, Republican gubernatorial candidate Jerry W. Kilgore announced Monday his opposition to day-laborer sites.
Kilgore said that the sites promote illegal behavior and that he would oppose them. "We have to encourage individuals to obey our laws," Kilgore said.
Speaking to about 30 members of the Greater Reston Chamber of Commerce and a few board members of the Herndon Dulles Chamber of Commerce, Kilgore entered the locally charged debate on day-laborer sites.
Following Kilgore’s morning speech, Pat Williams, chair of the Herndon Dulles Chamber, asked Kilgore about his views on work centers like the one being proposed in Herndon. "What opportunities and difficulties do you see with illegal immigrants seeking jobs?" said Williams.
"I do oppose building work centers that promote illegal workers," said Kilgore, adding that these workers are not entitled to benefits from the state. Kilgore said he opposes any plan for government-funded day-laborer work centers that aid illegal immigrants. He did leave the door open for centers that check for workers’ legal status. "I would encourage them to have a check," Kilgore said.
IN A FOLLOW-UP question, Williams pressed Kilgore for a solution, asking what should be done for the people who are already here working illegally. Kilgore’s response focused on meeting legislative mandates already in place.
"For [illegal] children we are required to provide K through 12 education," said Kilgore. "We ought to work with them through the school system to develop more avenues to make themselves legal in this country."
Proponents of the Herndon site argue it will solve the problems caused when workers gather unofficially at the parking lot at the 7-Eleven on the corner of Elden Street and Alabama Drive. Opponents say that formal or otherwise, a site will lower real estate values, increase trespassing through peoples’ yards, and cause other nuisance and safety issues.
The issue is not the congregation of documented or undocumented workers, said Herndon Mayor Michael O’Reilly in a previous statement. The problem, he said, is too many men standing on the street corner of Alabama Drive and Elden Street competing for work every day.
Danny Vargas, a business owner in Herndon who attended the session, thinks the local day-laborer issue needs to be considered in a broader perspective.
"I think the key is to make sure we understand that what’s happening at the local level, whether it’s in Herndon or some other locality, that it is symptomatic of 20 years or so of the federal government not paying too much attention to the issue, whether it’s immigration reform or border security," said Vargas, who is also a board member of the Herndon Dulles chamber. "Second, it’s incumbent upon all of us to express our concerns to federal legislators and the administration so that they can begin to address the issue and deal with it."
Later Monday morning, Kilgore spoke to reporters in a conference call, addressing a wide range of illegal immigration issues, including day-laborer sites.
Kilgore was the second candidate for governor to visit Reston in a week. Sen. H. Russell Potts Jr., the independent candidate for governor, talked with members of Reston’s chamber last Friday, Aug. 5. (See related article).