Friday, Oct. 5, 2007

Project highlights immigrant issues

McDonough says crackdown needed, while O’Malley praises state’s inclusiveness

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Brian Lewis⁄The Gazette
‘‘In our Maryland, there’s no such thing as a spare American,” Gov. Martin O’Malley said at the kickoff for a fundraising campaign for the McCormick-Goodhart Mansion in Langley Park.
LANGLEY PARK — The announcement of a new $31 million multicultural initiative and center in Langley Park represents not only a building, but how two sides of the political divide see immigrants.

Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) and others hailed Maryland as an inclusive state.

‘‘In our Maryland, there’s no such thing as a spare American,” O’Malley said.

The Casa of Maryland project is financed through a combination of state and local government grants as well as contributions from corporations, such as Adventist Healthcare and Bank of America.

Wednesday’s event kicked off a $30 million fundraising campaign to renovate the dilapidated McCormick-Goodhart Mansion in Langley Park to turn it into a multicultural center that will provide social services, English language classes, job training and other programs to the community. The three-story mansion was built in 1924 and was last used as a private school. It now is surrounded by low-income housing in a community where 72 percent of the population was born in other countries.

The state gave Casa a $1.2 million tax credit for historic preservation work. Sawyer Realty LLC donated the property. The project is expected to take three years to complete.

Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett (D) said the center is just one of the ways that shows how Maryland has more ‘‘enlightened leadership” than neighboring Virginia where anti-immigration measures are passing.

‘‘Maryland is very inclusive,” Leggett said. ‘‘Part of our strength is our diversity.”

But Del. Patrick L. McDonough, (R-Dist. 7) of Middlesex said the state is going in the wrong direction and should be following Virginia’s example of cracking down on illegal immigrants.

‘‘I’m not a supporter of Casa because basically I feel they may be helping illegal aliens, particularly with day labor centers,” McDonough said. ‘‘That’s one of the biggest problems this state faces is we’ve greeted illegal aliens with open arms.”

Maryland residents end up paying more for health care and education costs because of immigrants moving into the state, he said.

‘‘This is once again a symbolic gesture on his part. He doesn’t care about the rule of law,” McDonough said.

McDonough launched an anti-illegal immigrant campaign on Sunday in Middle River that he said drew 350 people.

The effort will include a possible lawsuit against the governor and state legislature for ‘‘aiding and abetting illegal immigrants.”

McDonough said he is organizing protest rallies to occur across the state.

‘‘The problem is the people with Casa and the ACLU and people like O’Malley, they’re organized,” he said. ‘‘We’re basically disorganized.”

McDonough criticized the administration for creating an environment that draws illegal immigrants to the state by making people like Thomas E. Perez secretary of the Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulations. Perez was once the president of Casa’s board of directors.

Perez, who was at Wednesday’s event, said the anti-immigrant crowd isn’t just opposed to illegal immigrants.

‘‘Since the beginning of our nation there’s been nationalists and others, who have railed against immigrants from the Italians and the Irish on,” he said. ‘‘The good news is they have never been successful. That’s why the Know Nothing Party vanished into history. There will always be those forces of gloom and doom that want to divide us. What a difference a year makes. A year ago we had a governor who said multiculturalism is bunk. Now we’ve got a governor celebrating a multicultural center.”