New York Times Editorial

Published: August 12, 2008
It’s rare, in the parched landscape of the immigration debate, to come across policies that are simple, realistic and humane. But here is one: The Los Angeles City Council is expected to vote on Wednesday on an ordinance requiring big-box home-improvement stores to protect order and safety when day laborers gather in their parking lots looking for work.

The ordinance is primarily aimed at Home Depot, which has 11 stores in Los Angeles and would like to open at least a dozen more. It would require new or renovating stores to have a plan for what to do when the day laborers show up, as they almost always do when Home Depot moves in.

Like any land-use law governing things like parking-lot lighting, curbs and sidewalks, the ordinance treats milling crowds of laborers and idling trucks as an integral fact of Home Depot’s business that should be managed before it becomes chaotic and hazardous. The solution is basic prevention, and could be as simple as setting up an area somewhere on store property with shade, toilets, drinking water and trash cans.

Opposition has erupted from the usual camps. Not all day laborers are undocumented immigrants or even immigrants, but a lot of them are, and the thought of doing anything that would make their lives easier makes some restrictionists howl and clutch their chests. “Lounges for Laborers?” one headline read.

The ordinance is as much for Home Depot’s customers and neighbors as it is for laborers. Nobody likes parking-lot free-for-alls. And lawlessness goes down, not up, when a hiring site imposes order on the ad-hoc day-labor market.

The immigration system, as it is currently malfunctioning, creates lots of problems. Solutions tend to be hugely ambitious and unrealistic — like restrictionists’ calls to lock down a 2,000-mile border and deport millions. Los Angeles’s proposed ordinance to require more orderly hiring sites for day laborers is a small measure that makes a huge amount of sense. We hope the Council approves it.

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