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Plans For Day Laborer Center Move Forward Despite Opposition

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Alice Foltz helped create the Centreville Immigration Forum -- now she finds herself in the middle of a political firestorm.
Alice Foltz helped create the Centreville Immigration Forum -- now she finds herself in the middle of a political firestorm.

By Jonathan Wilson

In Fairfax County, Virginia, a non-profit group in Centreville is moving forward with plans to open a center for day laborers adjacent to a local mall.

The group is doing so despite fierce community opposition.

It's not hard to find stark difference in opinion when it comes to the prospect of a center for day laborers in Centreville.

Bill Mallon has lived here for 40 years. He says building a place where many illegal immigrants could gather and look for work, just isn't right.

"I don't think it should be built, because quite honestly, if I was caught helping illegals in the United States, and they were enforcing the law, I would be arrested," says Mallon.

Sherry Watkins says she thinks the center would be a good thing. She says it would keep day laborers from being scattered across random street corners, and perhaps give them a place where they could learn English.

"If it works out the way she says, and it makes less people stand out here on the curb, which seems to bother people, than it's going to be wonderful," says Watkins.

The "she" Watkins is talking about is Alice Foltz. Foltz is with the non-profit, Centreville Immigration Forum, which will run the center if it gets built.

She says residents have the right to feel angry about undocumented workers. Foltz witnessed some of that anger at a town hall meeting regarding the proposed center last month.

But she says her group is simply trying to make Centreville a safer and better place for everybody, not solve the issue of how to enforce federal laws.

"We can't tackle all of that right here on this corner in Centreville," says Foltz. "We're only providing a local solution to a local problem."

Foltz says the Center is set to be built behind the Centerville Shopping Center and could be ready in the fall. It would have capacity for 40 or 50 workers each day.

Fairfax County staff say the Centreville Immigration Forum, and the developer behind the day laborer center, aren't breaking any state or county laws by building it.

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