After 12 years of operation, Huntington closed its day labor site last week. It's a disappointing end to what started out as a progressive local response to our failed national immigration policy. Shutting down recruitment locations or passing anti-loitering laws, however, won't make these workers disappear from the streets of Huntington or anyplace else.
The site, run by the Family Service League, connected these workers with employers, social services agencies and local churches where, if needed, they could find food and a place to sleep. But its effectiveness was diminished by quality-of-life complaints by local residents and aggressive efforts by some who lived outside the town to intimidate the contractors and homeowners offering jobs.
The same magical thinking, that these workers can be made to disappear, persists in the Town of Oyster Bay. A federal judge has issued an injunction against the town's anti-loitering ordinance, saying that it could interfere with the workers' constitutional rights to commercial speech. Supervisor John Venditto, however, is appealing on the grounds that the town has the right to regulate public safety.
Nationally, more than 1,500 local laws have been passed in the past decade to deal with consequences of illegal immigration. Courts here and in California, where a similar ordinance was upheld, will continue to sort out the rights of day laborers. A solution, however, will come only when Washington enacts immigration reform. hN