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|10/26 Herndon, VA: Minutemen to begin surveillance of laborers
Released 04 November 2005  By Dominic Bonaiuto - timescommunity.com
A local chapter of the Minuteman Project plans to begin surveillance of local day laborers and their employers in the coming days and report the findings to federal tax and immigration officials.
Two dozen people turned out for the group's first organizational˙meeting last week at the Herndon Fortnightly Library, where chapter founder George Taplin sought volunteers and donations.
"The IRS encourages people to call if they see tax fraud. Well, we're actively going to look for it," Taplin said. "They've said they can't˙ do it all and have asked for help. We're here to help."
Taplin said those who try to come into the county illegally are robbing those that are here legally of valuable resources and services.
"We're not against anyone coming here ... just sign the guest book," he said.
A few uncomfortable exchanges between Minuteman supporters and Hispanic activists during the hourlong meeting showed emotions are still running high two months after the town approved creation of a formal day labor site behind the Herndon Police station.
Ricardo Cabellos, a representative from the League of United Latin˙American Citizens, peppered Taplin with questions about racial profiling, about how he would identify legal immigrants from illegal aliens and about which borders he was trying to protect.
Some of Taplin's supporters stood up and questioned Cabellos about what untry he was from and whether he had a job.
"If you do some research, you'll find they are really an extremist˙group," Cabellos said, adding that the local Minutemen would only spread fear in the Hispanic population.
The national Minuteman organization has gained notoriety for its civilian border patrol initiative, but its activities also have closed down two day labor sites in Houston.
Jose Vanegas, who helped coordinate day labor activities at the 7-Eleven parking lot on Elden Street before the town and county intervened, said the workers will not be as easily deterred here.
"They're not going to go away. They need the money, and the economy needs them," Vanegas said. "We've got to have an open dialogue about what to˙do with these people [the day laborers]."
Minuteman volunteers said they will be using cameras to track the comings and goings at day laborer gathering spots. A new center is expected to open in December and will be run by local nonprofit Project Hope and Harmony with the assistance of a Fairfax County grant.
Taplin said the Minutemen will follow workers to their job sites to target those who employ illegal aliens for possible tax evasion.
In addition, he said, the group will follow the workers to their homes looking for potential zoning violations, primarily based on the number˙of occupants.
Local Minutemen will not be allowed to carry weapons and will be instructed to avoid confrontations.
"If we're at the 7-Eleven and a group comes toward us, we will turn and leave. If they continue following us, we'll get in our cars and leave," Taplin said.
Dean Boyd, a spokesman for the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, said the agency would accept and investigate information from the Minutemen like it does from the general public, but he added, "we never encourage members of the public to conduct law enforcement activities on their own.
Law enforcement is best left up to the trained professionals."
Taplin said racism will not be tolerated among the volunteers, adding˙ that screening and criminal background checks performed by the national Minuteman organization would weed out those with "radical views."
For those who choose not to join the national organization, Taplin said the local group would routinely monitor their behavior and remove someone if necessary.
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