The following editorial appears in the Asbury Park Press: The ongoing search for a solution to the issue of day laborers in Lakewood has taken another turn, with the recent establishment of a single muster zone in a parking lot between First and Second streets. The idea this time is to confine the laborers to one spot, away from the sidewalks of Clifton Avenue, to prevent loitering crowds from getting in the way of pedestrians or drivers.That’s a worthwhile goal, but there are broader, more fundamental issues that need addressing here. For many years now, illegal immigrants have been gathering in Lakewood searching for work so they can support their families here and in distant lands.
The idea of immigrants looking for jobs is not a bad thing. On the contrary, it’s what this nation was built on.
The problem lies in one word – “illegal.”
If a muster zone is going to be allowed to exist in Lakewood, or anywhere, then the only immigrants allowed to gather for work should be those with proper documentation who can demonstrate they are in this country legally. After all, it’s the law.
And it’s only fair. If the law is good enough for American-born citizens to follow, the same standards should apply to those who want to start a new life in this country as well. It’s also only fair to the many immigrants who do obey the law and work to gain their citizenship legally, no matter how long it takes.
It’s an issue that needs to be aggressively addressed if this new muster zone should be allowed to exist.
The other concern relates to the contractors who show up looking for laborers. The law applies to them just as much as it does to the men they pay, and that means they need to prove they are conducting their business legally, above-board and on the books – both in terms of who they hire and how the hired help is treated. It’s for the good of everyone involved.
The nonprofit Puerto Rican Congress has proposed that it run the muster zone and hold training classes for specialized trades, at a cost to Lakewood of $55,000. The mayor says that’s too expensive, and he’s right. But the township has a responsibility to ensure the letter of the law is obeyed, consistently and uniformly.
This is an instance where Committeeman Robert Singer should also use his role as a state senator to make the muster zone work for the good of the entire community and also serve as a model for the state and elsewhere.