Teenagers’ Violent ‘Sport’ Led to Killing on Long Island, Officials Say

Teenagers’ Violent ‘Sport’ Led to Killing on Long Island, Officials Say

Teenagers’ Violent ‘Sport’ Led to Killing on Long Island, Officials Say

Teenagers’ Violent ‘Sport’ Led to Killing on Long Island, Officials Say  


New York Times
Published: November 20, 2008

RIVERHEAD, N.Y. — Every now and then, perhaps once a week, seven young friends got together in their hamlet of Medford, on eastern Long Island, to hunt down, and hurt, Hispanic men. They made a sport of it, calling their victims “beaners,” a reference to the staple Hispanic dish of rice and beans, prosecutors said on Thursday.

Nov. 8 was a particularly long and violent day, the prosecutors said. Two of the teenagers set out in their car at dawn and one of them fired a BB gun at a Hispanic man in his driveway, striking him several times. That evening, the group, now seven strong, drank beer in a park and searched for more victims. They found and beat a Hispanic man in neighboring Patchogue, but he was able to escape.

Then, shortly before midnight, prosecutors said, they caught sight of Marcelo Lucero, an Ecuadorean immigrant walking with a friend near the train station in Patchogue. The teenagers surrounded, taunted and beat Mr. Lucero, who tried to fight back. One of the youths fatally stabbed Mr. Lucero, 37, a worker at a dry cleaning store and 16-year resident of the United States who regularly sent money to his ailing mother in Ecuador.

Six of the seven teenagers, now defendants charged with multiple counts of gang assault and hate crimes, were arraigned Thursday in Suffolk County Criminal Court.

“To them, it was a sport,” Thomas J. Spota, Suffolk County’s district attorney, said in a news conference after the defendants were arraigned. “We know for sure that there are more victims out there.”

Moments earlier, one by one, the youths were led before a courtroom packed with their parents and high school friends, as well as Mr. Lucero’s relatives, many of whom wept as the prosecution detailed the chilling sequence of events.

A grand jury indictment, also unsealed on Thursday, laid out additional charges that the defendants now face for what prosecutors described as earlier crimes against Hispanics.

A seventh defendant, Jeffrey Conroy, 17, a star high school athlete, was charged with second-degree murder and manslaughter as a hate crime in Mr. Lucero’s death. He is scheduled to be arraigned on Monday.

The judge set bail for five of the youths at $250,000 cash or $500,000 bond, and bail was denied to a sixth defendant, Christopher Overton, 16, who has a felony conviction for a 2007 burglary in which an East Patchogue man was killed.

All seven defendants have pleaded not guilty in the attack on Mr. Lucero.

In the courtroom, at a news conference and in the indictment itself, the prosecutors detailed the following chronology of events that preceded Mr. Lucero’s death.

Mr. Spota said three defendants, Anthony Hartford, Kevin Shea and Jose Pacheco, all 17, went out driving five days before Mr. Lucero was killed with the intent of, in their words, “beaner hopping.”

They found a Hispanic man that day whom Mr. Pacheco admitted to punching and knocking out cold, Mr. Spota said. That victim has not stepped forward. Mr. Pacheco later told the police, “I don’t go out and do this very often, maybe once a week,” Mr. Spota said.

About 5 a.m. on Nov. 8, Nicholas Hausch and Jordan Dasch, both 17, fired a BB gun at Marlon Garcia, hitting him several times. In the evening, the seven friends got together and, after failing to find potential victims in Medford, set off for Patchogue, where they saw Hector Sierra walking downtown. They caught up to him and punched him before he ran away.

Shortly before midnight, the teens saw Mr. Lucero and his friend, Angel Loja. They got out of their car and taunted the men with racist slurs. Mr. Loja fled, but the group surrounded Mr. Lucero and punched him in the face. Trying to defend himself, Mr. Lucero removed his belt and swung it, striking Mr. Conroy in the head. Enraged, Mr. Conroy rushed at Mr. Lucero and plunged a knife into his chest. The youths fled, but were soon caught by the police.

Mr. Conroy was the only one charged with murder, Mr. Spota said, because the other six defendants were initially unaware that he had stabbed Mr. Lucero.

(Page 2 of 2)



Lawyers for the six defendants arraigned on Thursday argued that their clients were being unfairly charged with crimes committed by others in the group. They also said that the defendants were not racist and pointed to the young men’s friends, black, white and Hispanic, filling the courtroom seats.

Chris Kirby, the lawyer for Mr. Pacheco, said in court that his client was of Hispanic descent and therefore incapable of a racist attack. “The idea that he, of Hispanic heritage, would beat up another Hispanic is patently absurd,” Mr. Kirby said.

Mr. Lucero’s killing has brought to the fore a fierce debate about race relations in Patchogue, a comfortable village of 11,700. Latinos make up a quarter of the population, according to the 2000 census. With the numbers of Latinos in the county growing and the economy weakening , some residents say there is a deepening resentment toward illegal immigrants, particularly day laborers.

County officials have insisted the attack was not connected to any simmering racial tensions in Patchogue or Medford. County Executive Steve Levy, long a proponent of crackdowns on illegal immigrants, called the defendants “white supremacists.” Michael Mostow, the superintendent of Patchogue-Medford School District, said there was no racial strife at the high school the teenagers attended and described the attack as “an aberration.”

The killing of Mr. Lucero yielded an outpouring of outrage and grief that rippled beyond the tightly knit Hispanic community here. His body was flown this week to his hometown, the mountain city of Gualaceo, Ecuador, and mourners by the hundreds met his coffin,Newsday reported

At a news conference after the arraignments, Hispanic leaders and members of Mr. Lucero’s family said they were pleased with the upgraded charges. At first, the defendants were accused of fewer crimes, and Mr. Conroy faced a charge of manslaughter, but not murder.

Cesar Perales, president and general counsel of the advocacy group Latino Justice P.R.L.D.E.F. said the new charges were important in restoring Hispanics’ faith in the county’s justice system.

Fernando Mateo, a spokesman for the Lucero family, said that while he was pleased that “justice would be served,” he did not believe recent reports that hate crimes had plummeted in the county in the last few years. “Hunting season is over for this group now,” Mr. Mateo said, as Mr. Lucero’s brother, Joselo, stood silently by his side. “It was a hobby to them, I know it started out as a game, but it turned into a murder.”


Immigrant mourned by thousands

Immigrant mourned by thousands

Immigrant mourned by thousands

Published Nov 19, 2008 6:43 PM

Seven suburban youths from Patchogue-Medford High School on Long Island decided to go out in their SUV on Saturday night, Nov. 8, and “f _ _ _ up a Mexican.” When they came across Ecuadorian immigrant Marcelo Lucero on his way to a friend’s house, they jumped him and beat him. Jeffrey Conroy, a local high school athlete, has been charged with first-degree manslaughter in the stabbing death of Lucero.

Immigrant mourned by thousands
Long Island vigil where Ecuadorian
immigrant was murdered.
Photo: Martha Rojas

On a rainy Friday night following the murder, more than 2,000 people gathered at the site of Lucero’s killing for a memorial vigil. Religious and government officials counseled peacefulness and reconciliation, but many people held signs asking for a reckoning.

Lucero was the eldest son of a poor Ecuadorian family. He left his home 16 years ago at the age of 22 to take the long and dangerous trip to the United States to find work. He traveled to Patchogue in Suffolk County, New York, a magnet for Ecuadorian families.

Marcelo Lucero worked for many years in a dry cleaning store, went to church and sent money home to his mother so she could build a house and survive. He was often sad and lonely and called his mother several times a week. (Newsday, Nov. 16)

Anti-Black and anti-immigrant history

Immigrant mourned by thousands
May 1 Coalition for Immigrant Rights
in Patchogue, N.Y., Nov. 14.
Photo: Carlos Canales

Suffolk County has a long racist history. White colonists stole the land from Indigenous people in the 17th century. The enslavement of Africans was legal there until 1827.

In the 1920s, the Ku Klux Klan held rallies in full white-sheeted regalia in Huntington, originally the Suffolk County seat. The Nazi Party chose to set up “Camp Siegfried” in the Suffolk village of Yaphank in the 1930s. Lucero worked just eight miles from there.

Racist realtors have promoted “racial steering” in the growing white suburbs from the 1950s to the present, forcing Black families into designated Black communities with inferior schools and social services. Suffolk County police have been notoriously racist in these communities.

U.S. policies have created a system of forced migration for millions of people. “Free trade” agreements have devastated the national economies of most of the countries of Latin America, Asia, the Middle East and Africa. Millions have left behind their beloved families to become low-wage laborers in the capitalist world market.

Racist, anti-immigrant rhetoric from media “stars” like Rush Limbaugh, Bill O’Reilly and Sean Hannity of Fox News has labeled immigrants “illegal aliens.”

Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy garnered votes by pandering to reactionary groups in the county and spearheading numerous anti-immigrant bills in the county legislature.

The Mexican Consulate, investigating racist attacks on Mexican immigrants in Farmingville—about 10 miles from where Lucero was killed—compared the region to the Arizona border for the abuse of immigrants. Levy did nothing in the face of fire bombings of Latin@s’ houses, attempted murders of Mexican day laborers, racist beatings, and police harassment of Latin@ residents. (AP, Nov. 16)

Levy’s policies mirror federal law, which has produced the terrible Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) raids on workplaces. These raids have intensified in the past year and have resulted in the deportation of 345,000 immigrants so far in 2008, up 16.5 percent from last year. (Boston Globe, Nov. 7)

Political reputations have been made or destroyed by adherence to the anti-immigrant line—from former Gov. Elliot Spitzer in New York, who dared to suggest that undocumented people should be able to get drivers’ licenses, to Sheriff Joe Arapaio of Maricopa County, Arizona, who has become the hero of the Aryan Nation, the Klan and the Minutemen as he conducts a campaign of terror and racial profiling in Phoenix and its environs.

George W. Bush’s Department of Homeland Security has spent billions of tax dollars to fund the raids and incarceration of hundreds of thousands of immigrants of color.

Anti-immigrant policies benefit corporations profiting from the immigrant-prison-industrial complex. The Border Patrol provides the best-paying jobs available for youth in the Southwestern U.S.

When the press and government conspire to demonize a specific group, that is institutionalized racism. As a result, a 40-percent rise in racist anti-immigrant attacks since 2003 preceded the murder of Marcelo Lucero. (AP, Nov. 16)

On that November night when the teenagers decided to ride around looking for a Mexican to attack, they were motivated by the rhetoric of County Executive Levy. They were inspired by public officials who confer legitimacy on anti-immigrant groups in Suffolk and across the U.S.

Foreclosures, low wages and unemployment are hitting hard on Long Island. Bankruptcies are up 77 percent. Anti-immigrant politicians promote racism to obs the real reasons for the economic decline. They inspired the adolescent killers of Marcelo Lucero.

At the vigil, a young Salvadoran man stood on a roof and held up a sign, “The murder of Marcelo Lucero is the responsibility of Steve Levy.”

Carlos Canales of the Workplace Project, an organizer of day laborers in nearby Farmingville, said, “They haven’t permitted the people to speak up and to tell our real feelings which show our anger, which shout our sorrow for the death of Marcelo. They ask us to live in peace, but we can never live in peace because there is no peace if there is no justice.”

Canales told Workers World that Steve Levy is “the spiritual leader of the doctrine of racial hatred” who promotes the “legalization and implementation of the most effective local anti-immigrant laws” in Suffolk County, the most segregated county in the U.S. (AP, Nov. 16)

During the vigil, many circulated a petition asking New York State Gov. David Paterson to call for the resignation of Levy. The May 1st Coalition plans a protest at the governor’s offices in Manhattan on Nov. 21.

Casa opens new day-laborer center in Crossroads

Day laborers struggle in tough economy

By Crystal Walker
Wednesday, and November 19, 2008 at 6:46 p.m.

Minutes before sunrise, people line up looking for work at Labor Ready in downtown Columbia.

The business offers people a day’s work and a day’s pay, but there are no guarantees.

“If they don’t have any work, I’m stuck or just out here, putting out applications,” Devante McCor said.

McCor is a brick mason by trade and says it’s tough to find regular work right now.

“But I still get out here and put out applications, you know what I’m saying, let them know that I’m looking for work, you know what I’m saying, got skills, you know what I’m saying, a lot of stuff, and well there all, if we have anything we’ll call you,” McCor said.

USC Professor Paulo Guimares says South Carolina’s construction jobs have been on a steady decline since January.

“It’s likely to shed some more jobs, because housing permits are down and they keep trending down,” Guimares said.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, South Carolina lost an estimated 16,000 construction jobs between January and September, leaving workers like McCor stuck out in the cold.

“My plans is to get myself back on my feet, go to school,” McCor said.

He says education is his ticket to a lasting employment.


Patchogue rebirth overshadowed by immigrant’s slaying

n a once-desolate stretch of Main Street in Patchogue, check local officials just two weeks ago joined business owners to break ground on a new YMCA, a $19.2 million anchor to the downtown’s western side.

County Executive Steve Levy said the project would make Patchogue “a destination place, there ” bringing energy and business downtown.

It is the latest step in Patchogue’s revitalization, a process that has seen store vacancies on Main Street shrink from about 50 percent 12 years ago to less than 20 percent today. Soon, ground could be broken on the biggest breakthrough yet: a seven-story or higher hotel on the site of the former Swezey’s department store, along with 250 housing units and tens of thousands of feet of new stores.

But in the past week, the village’s upswing was overshadowed by the killing of Ecuadorean immigrant Marcelo Lucero, 37, in what Suffolk police have labeled a hate crime.

Some members of the Spanish-speaking community, even longtime residents, have come forward to say they feel unsafe in their neighborhoods, but often are hesitant to go to the police for fear of deportation. And the village mayor has embarked on a door-to-door campaign in Hispanic districts to assure residents that the village cares about their welfare.

The Nov. 8 killing has shaken the blue-collar, bay-side community, where for decades whites and a growing Latino population have co-existed in seeming harmony.

“We are one of the few communities where the intertwining of the two communities has worked very well,” said Fernando Quinones, a deacon at St. Frances de Sales Roman Catholic Church and coordinator of the Brookhaven Hispanic Ministry. “It’s surprising to see something like this happen. It comes as such a shock.”

It is a sentiment repeated over and over in conversations with local residents, business people and officials. Unlike nearby Farmingville, which is marked by tensions between white residents and a recent influx of Mexican day laborers, in Patchogue the melding of ethnic groups seemed to be working.

“I’ve lived here 78 years and we’ve never had anything like this before,” said Abie Siegal, owner of the family-run Blum’s clothing store, where he has worked since 1951. “It’s a very diverse community that has been getting along for many years.”

Still, in the wake of Lucero’s killing, stories have emerged of Latinos who say they have been harassed, beaten, cursed or spat upon. Said Flavio Lojano, who lives near the site of the Lucero stabbing: “This is not right, fighting between Spanish and American people.”

Lori Devlin, a village trustee, said employees at Gallo Tropical, a Colombian restaurant on Main Street, have told of attacks. “We were surprised to learn how much of their employees have been beaten up,” she said. “No one should think they can’t safely walk home from work.”

Latinos started arriving in Patchogue in significant numbers with an influx of Puerto Ricans in the 1950s. They were followed in the 1980s by Central Americans fleeing civil wars in their home countries.

By the early to mid-1990s, Ecuadoreans started arriving, and today they make up the largest segment of the Latino population, said the Rev. Andrew Connolly, who used to work at St. Frances de Sales.

Census figures show Latinos have increased from 14 percent of Patchogue’s population in 1990 to 24 percent in 2000. Mayor Paul Pontieri estimates it may be 30 percent today.

Some locals note the some of alleged attackers came not from Patchogue but neighboring Medford, without a tradition of diversity and integration. But problems that some associate with the influx of Latinos – complaints of overcrowded housing, for example – anger some residents in both places.

“Main Street is like Mexico, basically,” said Nancy Tanzey, who has lived in Patchogue for 25 years. “There’s three or four families living in one house.”

Still, Quinones said Latinos and whites often mingle. He noted that St. France de Sales holds an annual bilingual Thanksgiving Day Mass, and another each year with an outdoor picnic. It’s attended by Latinos and whites, and features Spanish food along with traditional American fare.

By all accounts, the village has made great strides toward turning itself into another Huntington or Babylon with a bustling downtown and trendy restaurants. The Patchogue Theatre for the Performing Arts, for instance, a 1920s vaudeville theater that reopened in 1998 after being closed for more than a decade, welcomed 135,000 people last year. That is twice the patronage in 2004, when Pontieri took office, he said.

Scores of affordable apartments and condos have sprung up between Main Street and the Long Island Rail Road station – the same station that was near the site of the attack on Lucero.

Pontieri, who spent the week at rallies, vigils and church services, said he believes the 115-year-old village can overcome the tragedy, although it won’t be easy. “Will it be a temporary stain?” he said. “I’m a supreme optimist.”

Greg Warrington, 26, who in September opened another of Patchogue’s new restaurants, the Pura Vida Burrito Co., agreed. “A few idiots in the high school can’t define what Patchogue is. It’s a melting pot of different cultures,” he said. “It would be a shame if this town is depicted as having a lot of underlying hatred.”

ACLU ruffles some O.C. feathers

American Civil Liberties Union has settled 4 high-profile cases in past 2 months.



Three years ago, the American Civil Liberties Union was a distant entity with little or no connections in Orange County.

But that has changed since September 2005 when the ACLU decided to set up in a small office suite on Chapman Avenue in Orange with two attorneys and one legal assistant.

This group has handled at least 10 cases since, not counting others that were resolved before a lawsuit was filed. In the last two months, ACLU attorneys have settled four high-profile Orange County cases. They have represented a Buddhist congregation in Garden Grove seeking to build a temple in an office complex, day laborers in Lake Forest, a Christian group that was banned from feeding the homeless in Doheny State Beach and a man who was thrown out of a Costa Mesa City Council meeting.

The group’s entry into Orange County has been a long time coming, said Ramona Ripston, executive director of ACLU Southern California.

“Orange County has changed dramatically over the years,” Ripston said. “However, we continue to deal with the same issues we have dealt with since the ’70s – race, poverty and rights for the underprivileged.”

ACLU Orange County has also tackled other issues in the last three years, says attorney Hector Villagra, who heads the local office.

Villagra says one of the first cases they took on involved a controversial program proposed by the Fullerton School District, which required parents to spend $1,500 to equip their children with laptop computers. A group of parents, who believed they were being scrutinized and discriminated against by the school district over their reluctance to pay for the laptops, approached the ACLU, which was able to reach an agreement with the school district to make the program accessible to all students.

That case, in fact, was pivotal in introducing the ACLU to all segments of the Orange County population, including conservative Christians such as Sandra Dingess, who admits she had certain pre-conceived notions about the ACLU.

“I had this stereotypical notion of the ACLU, that they were always the devil’s advocate, on the wrong side of issues,” says the Fullerton parent, who at the time was faced with putting $6,000 on her credit card to laptops for four children. “But in this case, they protected my rights and my children’s rights.”

Jim Seiler, a member of Christian group Welcome INN, said ACLU was a last resort for him and other members of his group, who were stopped by state park officials in February from feeding the homeless on Doheny State Beach. The group fed at least 50 people on the beach each evening, Monday through Friday, he said.

“I’d always thought of the ACLU as representing atheists and groups of people whose ideas I don’t subscribe to,” Seiler said. “I was shocked that they offered to help us.”

Although ACLU won some hearts in conservative quarters, their most vehement critics remain local city officials and those with strong positions on the immigration issue.

The ACLU sued the city of Lake Forest and the Orange County Sheriff’s Department over a city ordinance that barred laborers from soliciting work on Lake Forest sidewalks. City Councilman Richard Dixon says his experience with the ACLU in that case left a bitter taste in his mouth. He said the city wasn’t enforcing the ordinance.

ACLU filed a frivolous lawsuit that benefited no one and cost taxpayers heavily, Dixon said.

“Maybe some of their lawsuits are beneficial,” he said. “But by and large, I find them trying to grandstand and chest-pound when they don’t need to be pounding their chests. It’s complete nonsense. In our case, thankfully, truth and justice won over stupidity.”

The protracted lawsuit ended in August when the city and the sheriff’s department agreed to allow the day laborers to solicit work on public sidewalks as long as they followed the law.

In other instances where the ACLU was involved, there were issues of conflict between local government and federal laws. The ACLU filed a lawsuit last year against the city of Garden Grove challenging their zoning laws for denying a building permit to a Buddhist temple on Chapman Avenue.

Belinda Escobosa-Helzer, who represented the temple on behalf of the ACLU, said the city violated the temple members’ rights to congregate and practice their religion. This case culminated in a settlement agreement in September with the city agreeing to give the temple another chance to apply for a permit, which would be “considered favorably.”

But Garden Grove Councilman Mark Rosen, who voted against that agreement in closed session, said the case should have gone to trial.

“As a councilman, I wanted to see the federal law challenged,” he said. “I don’t believe federal government should interfere with decisions that are made by local governments.”

Escobosa-Helzer said she found, especially during this case, that having an office in Orange County helps her interact and communicate better with clients.

In the future, Villagra says his office will continue to be involved with issues such as education, immigrant rights and rights of those in jail. Recently, his office sent out a letter to the sheriff’s department alerting them to a complaint from inmates that they were being forced to share razor blades.

“There was a legitimate concern of HIV and Hepatitis,” he said. “But that issue was resolved with a letter.”

Their goal in Orange County is also to build ties with the community, Escobosa-Helzer said.

“It helps us recognize the problems in different communities and ways to find solutions,” she said.

Contact the writer: 714-445-6685 or dbharath@ocregister.com

Day Laborers Give Back to Pomona! Clean Up of the Historic Casa Primera!

Pomona Economic Opportunity Center

For Immediate Release

Day Laborers Give Back to Pomona! Clean Up of the Historic Casa Primera!

Contact: Suzanne Foster 

Pomona Economic Opportunity Center (PEOC)
Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles (CHIRLA)
Institute of Popular Education of Southern California (IDEPSCA)
Central American Resource Center (CARECEN)
National Day Laborer Organizing Network (NDLON)

Casa Primera
1659 N. Park Ave.
Pomona, CA 91768

Thursday, click September 4th, 2008
9:00 am Press Conference
Clean Up of Casa Primera the rest of the morning

(Pomona, CA) Day laborers from across Los Angeles County will host a local community
volunteer effort in Pomona on Thursday, September 4 as part of a national campaign —
“Echando Raices” or “Growing Roots”—sponsored by members of the National Day Laborer
Organizing Network. Along with the beautification of the local community, the day laborers
will promote tolerance, understanding and respect for immigrants and their families. They
will be volunteering their efforts to clean-up the “Casa Primera,” the first house built in the
Pomona Valley in 1837. Contributing towards the beautification of the Pomona community
is a priority for the day laborers that live and work here. The volunteer day will be done in
memory of a long-time member of the Pomona Day Labor Center who recently passed away, David Villalta.

According to leading experts, approximately 117,000 day laborers seek and receive
work every day in cities and towns across the country. Despite the undeniable demand for
their services, day laborers’ rights are routinely violated, as they are underpaid by employers and attacked by vigilantes. In this politically charged climate, day laborers have organized to improve their communities and to defend their basic rights. They have created worker centers, designated areas, and organized street corners to respond to local concerns about day laborer hiring, to hold employers accountable, and to participate in political decisions about their lives.

“In the face of weak economic times and the abuses often directed against them, day
laborers have organized to give back to the community in which they live, work, and raise
their families,” said Suzanne Foster, director of the Pomona Economic Opportunity Center. She continued, “The day laborers are particularly excited about beautifying a local historical site so that the public may enjoy it and learn about the history of Pomona.”

Herndon’s Headache

The town may take another ill-advised swipe at day laborers.

Washington Post
Friday, August 22, 2008; Page A16

HERNDON OFFICIALS shouldn’t be surprised that day laborers are again crowding the town’s streets. When Herndon opened a center that connected employers with day laborers in 2005, the western Fairfax County town of 23,000 people — about a third of whom are Hispanic — found a sensible way to deal with an unregulated scramble for jobs that sed onto the town’s sidewalks. It also found itself at the focal point of a national debate about illegal immigration. Critics said the group that operated the center should check the immigration status of the laborers. Town officials shut the center last year. Now many of the officials who fought to close the center are scrambling for answers as they consider whether to take another ill-advised swipe at immigrants.

The reappearance of the laborers, who observers say number between 50 and 100, has irritated some citizens and officials. Most of the workers wait on Elden Street, where many of the town’s busiest retailers are located. But people have a constitutional right to seek jobs in public, so council member Dennis D. Husch has proposed a number of oblique approaches to make their lives difficult, such as attempting to remove pay phones and confiscating bicycles chained to trees and sign posts. He also suggests limiting alcohol s in the area where the laborers gather. Mayor Stephen J. DeBenedittis didn’t dismiss the suggestions but told us that he was hesitant to do anything to make the town less pedestrian and bicycle-friendly. Groups that support the laborers say that such rules are discriminatory and would probably be struck down in court.

Mr. Husch’s proposal is an unwitting admission that closing the center was a mistake. The center, which taught laborers English and provided them with small comforts such as coffee, kept workers from loitering. Before it opened, laborers jostled for work each morning outside a local 7-Eleven. It was a chaotic scene, and there were reports of public urination, fistfights and other misconduct. There haven’t been similar reports of misconduct since the center closed, but some residents say that the situation is worse now, because the laborers don’t confine themselves to the 7-Eleven.

The failure of the federal government to fix the immigration mess in Fairfax Countyand across the country has put a burden on local officials. But they still have options. They can embrace practical solutions, such as the laborer center. Or they can follow Herndon’s floundering example.


Big Boxes and Day Laborers

By The Editorial Board


The Los Angeles City Council on Wednesday afternoon passed an ordinance requiring the biggest big-box home-improvement stores — Home Depot, and in other words — to deal with the problems caused when groups of day laborers gather outside to look for work.

The new law does not explicitly require the creation of day-laborer hiring sites — rudimentary, roped-off areas with shade, water, toilets and benches — but that is what the stores would most likely do to comply with the new rule. The ordinance makes the stores responsible for keeping their parking lots safe, clean and orderly for the mingling of contractors, pers and day laborers.

It’s smart for several reasons:

Basic crowd-and-vehicle control. It’s never a good idea to have dozens of men looking for work in vast, barren parking lots without trash cans or toilets. Ad-hoc hiring sites can be unsightly, chaotic, and dangerous. But setting up amenities for day laborers has been controversial, because immigration hard-liners bitterly resist simple measures that might help the people they want to lock up and deport. They would prefer to wish away the problem rather than deal with it, as Los Angeles has.

Justice and dignity for day laborers — and other low-wage workers, both immigrant and native-born. Day labor can be a brutally hard way to make a living. But rock-bottom pay, cruel working conditions and wage-and-hour abuses — the kinds of things that make Lou Dobbs weep for the native-born American worker — are discouraged when day laborers have safe, well-run places to look for work. The idea is to deny bottom-feeding employers the opportunity to exploit people off the books and out of sight, and that is exactly what hiring sites do.

There are strong practical reasons for giving day laborers basic shelter, but there is a powerful moral argument, too. Pablo Alvarado, executive director of the National Day Laborer Organizing Network, based in Los Angeles, puts it eloquently: “If you accept my labor, you must accept my humanity.”

Customers should not weep for Home Depot, a chain whose very business model — selling building supplies in bulk — encourages and benefits from day labor. The company has profited immensely in the globalized world and crosses borders with ease — far more easily than, say, the hard-working immigrant men so many of its customers rely on for help with drywall, painting, landscaping and other manual jobs.

Other communities with day-laborer problems should look at what Los Angeles has done, and follow its good example. It was a long battle, but worth it.

“It took four years to get a four-page ordinance,” said a relieved Bernard Parks, the city councilman who sponsored it, just before the successful vote.


Council passes day-labor center ordinance

By Sid Garcia

LOS ANGELES (KABC) — Wednesday’s vote ends four years of laboring over how to regulate day laborers at large home improvement stores.

The City Council passed an ordinance Wednesday that requires home-improvement stores such as The Home Depot, clinic Lowe’s, Osh and others more than 100,000 square feet in size to set aside space for day-laborer shelters. The shelters must include drinking water, bathrooms, tables, seating and garbage cans, and must be close to the store location.

The 15-member City Council voted for the ordinance unanimously Wednesday.

“It is not an ordinance that impacts or takes into account a person’s immigration status,” said L.A. City Councilman Bernard Parks. “It’s not an ordinance that mandates shelters. It merely gives communities the ability to have input in the conditional-use process.” 

 Supporters say labor centers at these stores will make it safer for the workers, and those seeking to hire them.

“The proposed ordinance requires only that there’s a plan upfront before a store opens,” said Pablo Alvarado, member of the National Day Laborer Organizing Network. “That is an essential first step to ensure that we have successful day laborer centers in our city.”

“As this economy gets worse, I will tell you, there will be more people who want to find day work, and I think that this is a good ordinance. I think it makes sense,” said City Councilwoman Janice Hahn.

The ordinance goes to Mayor Villaraigosa; once the ordinance is signed by the mayor, the ordinance becomes law and goes into effect in 30 days. It also requires store developers to look into the need for security.

This ordinance, according to Parks, will save the city around $2 million per year in litigation and solve other problems day laborers congregating at home-improvement stores cause.

City News Service contributed to this report.