Monday, January 29, 2007

Tensions between Latinos and African-Americans in Brentwood, Washington, DC

Yolanda Woodlee:

Regina James says she drives past Rhode Island Plaza every weekday morning and has mixed feelings at the sight of more than 100 Latino men waiting for day-labor jobs in the Home Depot parking lot.

The increasing number of laborers, some of whom residents say leave trash on the ground and urinate along a nearby barrier wall, has heightened tension and stirred mistrust between the Latinos and the mostly black residents of the working-class Brentwood neighborhood in Northeast.

Some residents complain that the day laborers don't live in the community, express fears that their presence could bring down property values, and gripe that they may be illegal immigrants taking jobs from others.

"People don't want it there, and it's going to get worse," said James, a former advisory neighborhood commissioner.

But at the same time, James and other residents are worried about their own reactions. They know that African Americans are also out of work and out looking for jobs.

"I don't want to see this get inflamed, because 40 years ago, this was our history. Black people did those jobs that nobody else wanted to do. It's really sensitive. I want to make sure we handle it with care because it is already explosive."

Despite the ethnic component to the problem, the situation in Brentwood is part of a growing dilemma in the Washington area and elsewhere, intensified by those who oppose spending taxpayer dollars to help immigrants who may not be in the country legally.

Illegal Immigration Pays—For Them, Not Us


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