[Marxism] 'Minuteman' group threatens and tries to intimidate day laborers in Herndon, Va.

Fred Feldman ffeldman at bellatlantic.net
Tue Nov 8 02:38:51 MST 2005


 washingtonpost.com
Day Laborers Being Photographed, Followed in Va.
Group Wants to Discourage Employers From Hiring Herndon Workers

By Timothy Dwyer
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, November 8, 2005; B01



Unless he's on a job, Paul Lopez, a teacher by trade, heads to a
7-Eleven parking lot in Herndon a couple of times a week to wait for
work. He was there Friday morning, dressed in paint-stained cargo pants,
a shirt, a light jacket and a Washington Redskins cap.

Lopez, who is from Bolivia, said he lives in the United States because
he can make "20 times" as much money painting and doing day-labor jobs
as he earned in Bolivia teaching elementary, middle and high school. His
family remains in Bolivia.

Workers have been a little uneasy coming to the 7-Eleven since
day-laborer sites became politically controversial. But for many
laborers, that unease has reached a new level.

Representatives of the Herndon chapter of the Minuteman Project, a
national group that fights illegal immigration, began showing up last
week at the site. On three mornings, including Friday, Minuteman members
arrived about 6 a.m. with video and still cameras and walkie-talkies to
document the activities of Lopez and other day laborers as well as the
employers hiring them.

George Taplin of Herndon, leader of the local chapter of the
Arizona-based organization, said the group plans to turn over its data
to the Internal Revenue Service, perhaps as early as this week, so the
IRS can check whether the employers are complying with tax regulations
and reporting the wages paid to the day laborers.

"We are targeting the employers to stop hiring day laborers so we don't
have them gathering in Herndon," he said. "If the employers stop coming
and there is no work, they will have to go away. . . . What we want,
bottom line in Herndon, is for the illegal aliens to leave. And if there
is no work, they will."

Lopez said he did not like the Minuteman representatives there. "We are
not here to do anything bad," he said through a translator. "We are just
here to work. All we want is tranquility. They don't want us to work."

Since summer, when town officials in Herndon began to discuss spending
taxpayer money to move the day laborers from the 7-Eleven to a more
formal and controlled site, the issue of immigration and the
government's role in it has spread from town hall meetings to national
talk radio to the Virginia governor's race. The Minuteman group's
decision to come to Herndon to monitor the day laborers has brought the
debate back to town.

The Town Council approved a new day-laborer site in August, but it is
not up and running. Assessments varied on how much impact the
Minutemen's presence had last week on the existing gathering spot. Some
community workers said the number of immigrants showing up each day
might have declined, but it was not clear whether that was attributable
to cooler weather and less demand for landscaping work or to the
Minuteman Project's presence.

"There may have been some decrease, a little bit, in the number of
contractors that are coming in to pick them up," said Edgar Rivera of
the Tenants' and Workers' Support Committee, who visited the hiring site
Wednesday morning.

Taplin said more than 60 people had joined the group. He said they will
continue to monitor and photograph workers and employers, but he would
not say how often or when they would be there.

"Does a general tell his enemy when he is going into battle?" Taplin
asked.

But he said the group had a successful first week.

"We accomplished more than we set out to do," Taplin said. "The main
thing we wanted to do is start building our database with images of the
different workers and employers. We also wanted to prove what most
people thought, and what we had put forth -- this idea that the vast
majority of the people who were there were illegal and the employers
were regular employers, not people who came every once in a while
looking for workers."

He said members of the group took pictures of workers and employers and
then followed the employers to job sites to document the locations. "We
found that some vehicles were coming back again and again, serving as
taxis, to bring workers to the same work site," he said.

Nancy Mathis, a spokeswoman for the IRS, declined to comment on what the
agency would do with the information if the Minutemen handed it over,
"because taxpayer information is confidential."

When members of Taplin's group tried to take photographs, workers often
turned their backs, Taplin said. He said he took that as a sign that
they were in the United States illegally and did not want their pictures
taken.

That may not be the case, though.

Many of the workers have attended workshops in recent weeks to prepare
them for the move to the new hiring site next month. Among the points
they were given on dealing with the Minuteman members and the media was
the suggestion that they turn their backs if they did not want to be
photographed.

"It really wasn't a workshop specially on the Minutemen," said Bill
Threlkeld, director of Project Hope and Harmony, a nonprofit group that
will operate the job center. "But certainly, since it is a current
issue, it did come up. We just talked about these groups who will try to
intimidate with video cameras and that they had a right to take pictures
as long as they were in public spaces. The workers don't need to be
concerned about that. They can ignore the photographers or just turn
around."

As part of the agreement to open a job center, the workers have been
told to form a governance team, which they have done, Threlkeld said. He
said the team will be involved in the operation of the center, which
will open behind the old town police station.

Until the center opens, he said, he has encouraged the workers to
communicate with the employers about what is going on at the 7-Eleven
site and to use the hiring location as a meeting place to be picked up
for scheduled work. He said workers have been told to take down
information on the people who hire them to protect themselves in the
event they are not paid or are left at job sites, as sometimes happens.

The workers have been given some media-relations pointers, too. "It is
important to have a consistent message," Threlkeld said. "They aren't
criminals. They are just people who want to work, and they have not come
to destroy. They have come to build and help out the community."

For Lopez, the presence of the Minuteman Project is a reminder of how
his status has changed. In Bolivia, he said, his position as a teacher
made him well known in the community, someone who people looked up to
and always greeted warmly on the street. Now he feels like a targeted
outcast, he said.

Five or six men gathered around Lopez as he spoke, nodding. "Now I am
just a humble worker like every other man here," he said.


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