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LAGUNA BEACH : Group Seeks Support for Hiring Hall

After seven years of helping Latinos in this community, the Cross Cultural Task Force may be facing its stiffest challenge: generating support for a hiring hall and resource center.

Task force members say they are trying to keep a positive attitude about getting the hiring hall open by early next year despite a countywide backlash against illegal immigrants, some of whom would benefit from such a center.

“I think the whole temperament has turned bad recently,” said David Peck, who is charged with obtaining grants for the project. “But we continue to work.”

Considering the current political climate, members say, they now must work harder to meet their overall goal, to “build bridges” between Anglos and Latinos.

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“People are getting so paranoid and defensive because it’s become such a national and state issue,” said member Carl E. Schwarz, who also is on the city’s school board. “It has certainly sharpened our concern and probably, if anything, motivated us to spend more time finding ways to build those bridges.”

The group will get to test public support for the hiring hall at the first fund-raiser for the resource center on Sept. 11 at Adolfo’s Cantina in Laguna Beach.

Members say immigrants play key roles in the city and that helping to meet their needs benefits the entire community. “They do contribute a lot in this community, working in a lot of hotels, restaurants, etc.,” said member Alice Graves. “They fill in that slot of minimum-wage workers needed here in Laguna.”

The 12-member task force has enjoyed considerable support and success in Laguna Beach since it was first formed to deal with problems relating to day laborers and inadequate housing for Latinos.

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Initially, the group created a bilingual brochure outlining community services in Laguna Beach and then started “living room dialogues” where Anglos and Latinos could relax together and share their problems.

The task force has awarded scholarships to students learning English, helped establish a dayworker hiring lot and was instrumental in launching a Headstart program in Laguna Beach.

Task force members walked an emotional tightrope in the past year as some residents became increasingly frustrated by dayworkers who gathered near their homes and who, the residents said, intimidated people.

When another task force proposed a law recently forcing day laborers to seek work only at the city hiring lot, the Cross Cultural group supported it. In return, they expect support from other community groups for the hiring hall, which they say would move workers off the streets altogether.

The City Council has supported the concept of a hiring hall.

For more information about the fund-raiser, call (714) 852-6223.


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