While some neighboring communities focus on policing the activities of migrant workers, a Centreville group has instead committed itself to aiding them.
Last month, the group, which calls itself the Centreville Immigration Forum, discussed implementing an emergency hot line, a worker center, and a way to help immigrant families who have been impacted by federal raids.
The group meets monthly at various locations. Representatives of other area churches and social-service groups also attend.
Past speakers have included Fairfax County Supervisor Michael Frye (R-Sully); Eve Barner, aide to Va. Senator Ken Cuccinelli (R-Centreville); Robert Rutland Brown, executive director of legal aid organization Just Neighbors; and Mukit Hussain, of the Herndon Resource Center.
Alice Foltz, the committee’s director, who often acts as the moderator, says she wants to see “more light and less heat” on the subject of immigration.
“We want to listen to each other and try to build community in Centreville, instead of just parallel communities,” she said.
The forum, which has about 24 members, met Nov. 18 at the Centreville United Methodist Church and discussed implementing a worker center in Centreville.
“Not every day laborer standing on the corner is illegal, but they all need jobs,” Foltz said. “The former worker center in Herndon enabled workers to have some recourse when they were not paid. That side of the Herndon experience would be very helpful to us.”
After discussing the benefits of a worker site, which member Pat Hood called “a big sell job,” Foltz steered the group toward more immediately achievable goals. “Let’s focus on the low-hanging fruit. What can we do right now?” she said.
The group concluded that implementing a Spanish-language emergency hot line that laborers could call for assistance could be accomplished more readily. “It would be a way to provide direction for assistance should an emergency arise, such as electricity being shut off,” said Jerry Foltz.
Esteban Garces, of the union Workers and Tenants United, said that many immigrant families are adversely impacted when family members are detained by federal raids. “Workers and their families are in desperate need of bond assistance,” Garces said.
“Maybe we could take care of families after an [immigration enforcement] raid,” suggested Mike Morse.
“I hope so,” added Pat Hood. “But not everyone is as sweet as we are.”