Groups spar over immigration issues outside of LA-area Home Depot

The Mercury News

GLENDALE, Calif. - One person was arrested during a protest Saturday outside Home Depot as groups clashed over the placement of day laborer centers near some of the home improvement chain’s stores.

About 200 people gathered outside the store, including members of the anti-illegal immigration group Save Our State, which has staged similar protests against Home Depot in other parts of Southern California.

While the protest grew heated at some points with both sides screaming and yelling over one another, only one person was arrested for allegedly pushing someone, police said. There were no reports of any injuries.

Save Our State contends some of the home improvement chain’s stores are encouraging the flow of illegal aliens into the United States by helping to set up day laborer centers - typically a trailer or staging area on store grounds where people gather to seek temporary work from building contractors or others.

“You’re talking about people who are in the country illegally,” said the group’s leader Joseph Turner. “Day laborers are overwhelmingly illegal aliens … day labor centers are obviously in violation of federal law that prohibits aiding and abetting illegal aliens.”

Turner claims the stores often cede to pressure from municipalities to pay for the day laborer centers as a condition for opening up shop.

Last month, the City Council voted in favor to spend $100,000 to expand the center across the street from Home Depot. The center, which opened in 1997, serves more than 100 workers a day.

Glendale is waiting to hear word from the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals regarding the constitutionality of its ordinance requiring day laborers to stay on the sidewalk and not go into the street to solicit work. The city appealed after a federal court struck down the ordinance that had been challenged by a day-laborer group [MALDEF].

At previous demonstrations, altercations have ensued between Save Our State members and those of pro [illegal] immigrant groups, who believe SOS members use immigration to garner media attention and distract people from other social issues.

During its protests, the group often uses video recorders and cameras to capture images of contractors and others soliciting the day laborers for work, then threatens to expose them for hiring illegal aliens.

“We aggressively target the employers as much as we can because we think they’re the source of the problem,” Turner said. “If there aren’t any jobs (for) illegal aliens, then they’re not going to come here.”

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