Seven Los Angeles day labor centers could be forced to close this summer because of a reduction in federal funding.
The centers, which connect a workforce composed largely of immigrants who are in the country illegally with temporary construction, landscaping and other jobs, have long been funded by about $1 million in federal community development grants distributed through City Hall.
But a new interpretation of federal regulations restricts the funding available for an array of city initiatives, including the day labor program, city officials say.
Earlier this year, day labor centers in downtown Los Angeles and in Wilmington had to close when funding ran out. The centers reopened several weeks later after the City Council approved emergency funds to keep them open through the end of the fiscal year June 30.
Supporters of the centers say they are worried about the future. Mayor Eric Garcetti's proposed 2014-15 budget calls for the centers to be funded but at a reduced rate. The budget does not specify where the money will come from.
On Thursday, several dozen day laborers marched 25 miles from Wilmington to Los Angeles City Hall to protest potential cuts.
Raul Salinas said the centers, which provide job training, English classes and information on health, labor and immigration laws, help protect workers like him from exploitation. When the Downtown Community Job Center briefly closed earlier this year, Salinas sought work on street corners, where he said he faced harassment from store owners who did not want him lingering outside of their businesses, as well as problems from police.
Public subsidies for job centers have provoked debate across the country, with advocates for tougher immigration enforcement arguing that the centers encourage illegal immigration and legitimize a black-market economy. In other states, public financing of day labor centers has been banned.
Pablo Alvarado, the national coordinator for the National Day Laborer Organizing Network, which works with six dozen centers nationwide, said the centers play an essential role in expanding equality for immigrants.
"For us, these day labor centers are immigration reform at the neighborhood level because they're about the politics of inclusion," he said.
City Councilman Gil Cedillo, who pushed for the emergency funding this spring, said funding for the day labor centers is a priority and vowed to "continue to find avenues to be able to fund these programs."
Garcetti spokesman Jeff Millman said the mayor's office is also committed to finding money to keep the centers open. He said the mayor hopes to provide $750,000 for day labor centers next year, 15% less than the amount the centers received this year in federal money.
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