Beginning in the Spring of 2005, long-time residents in Herndon, Virginia were conflicted over the construction of a day labor site. One group organized to keep it out of their towns borders saying it would only attract more undocumented immigrants. While another argued having an official site would stop the hundreds of men from gathering at the local 7-11 parking lot.
The following is a snap shot of their stories...
The day laborers at a new site
It was a bitter 7 degrees on Dec. 14, 2004, and the trickle of men began at 6 a.m. First some 20 and by 9:30 a.m., 106 men braved the cold and the flurry of local news vans, politicians and protesters. They meekly worked their way to the new day labor site to collect their tickets and wait for a willing employer to pick them up for the day. Most of the men were wearing two and three sweaters to keep warm.
Most of the guys say waiting for hours in the frigid temperatures is a small price to pay to earn a day's pay. Their side of the story? They traversed the treacherous southern border in order to work and send much needed money to families back home — mostly in Central America.
And on this particular morning, it was the employers who would stay away. By 9 a.m. one employer whisked away two guys trying to avoid any unwanted attention. After three hours, dejected, the day laborers started their one-mile walk from the center to their homes. They feared that this day was just a sign of things to come.
George Taplin and the Minutemen
On this frigid 17-degree-morning, the showdown begins just after 6 a.m. About a dozen residents taking the law into their own hands. George Taplin feverishly yells, "I'm going to get that guy!" as he chases down a white van with his 35 mm camera.
He is dogged in his mission to rid HIS town of a nuance he says are the day laborers. So determined in fact that he started the first chapter on the east coast of the Minutemen.
Virginia is a far cry from the U.S.-Mexico border. Their battle front? The local 7-11, where a group of day laborers — mostly Latino immigrants — gather each morning to wait for work.
When we met the Minutemen their most important fight was to keep an official day labor site from opening up within the town limits. This they say will only attract more day laborers and more illegal employers paying sub-standard wages.
Help Save Herndon
This very proposal for a proper day labor site — gave life to another watchdog group — Help Save Herndon. Their mission? To preserve the American character of their small town.
Herndon, once a sprawling suburb, today is home to 22,000 people and is the third largest town in Virginia; serving as a bedroom community to white collar professionals working in the office parks that now dot the corridors of this growing town. The construction boom here — new homes, retail space, hotels and office buildings — is drawing undocumented immigrants North from as far south as Peru. They are building hotels, homes and the women are working as nannies and housekeepers at the hotels.
Similarly to many, traditionally Anglo communities across the United States, here long-time residents are struggling with the change Latino immigrants are bringing to this town.