Immigration is a hot-button issue in tomorrow's Lake Worth City Commission elections, in part due to the large number of undocumented residents in the city but also because of the recent flap over candidate Scott Maxwell's alleged ties to anti-immigration hate groups.
Tomorrow, Lake Worth residents go to the polls to vote for mayor and City Commission candidates in districts 1 and 3.
We asked all four City Commission candidates to respond to three questions about policies for undocumented workers in Lake Worth. We've posted Jo-Ann Golden's and Wes Blackman's responses. After the jump, excerpts from District 1 candidate, former mayor, and city commissioner Ron Exline. As yet, we haven't had a response from Scott Maxwell.
What is your position on the Lake Worth mentoring center?
I've been going to commission meetings, and I know the location is a problem in that they're overcrowded. The location seems to have turned sour for a number of reasons: For one thing, the center was created to cut down on traffic along Lake Avenue from potential employers seeking workers, and the center seems to have discouraged employers from coming down here at all. I favor moving the planning and zoning department into that location instead. I had a hostile reception from the people running the center; they accused me of being anti-immigrant. But I'm not anti-immigrant; I've always been a people person.
I think a better location for the mentoring center would be not in downtown Lake Worth but in the new park of commerce. It's out there nearer to Home Depot, and they'd be closer to where there's more traffic of employers looking for construction workers.
What are the major problems facing Lake Worth in respect to illegal immigration?
We were all immigrants at one time, and eventually there will be assimilation. I don't think we have a big problem with immigration in Lake Worth. As far as I can see, our immigrants are hard-working, and they serve a purpose filling jobs that even laid-off workers are not always willing to take. I don't see their presence as a big problem, and with the economy the way it is, there are fewer illegal immigrants in the city anyway.
What specifically will you do to help integrate legal immigrants into the community? I think it's great that they have classes over there at the mentoring center to help them learn to speak English. When I was mayor [Exline was mayor of Lake Worth from 1984-1988], we had a big influx of Guatemalans to the city, and we accommodated them or helped them relocate. I don't see the Lake Worth population as hating immigrants or being opposed to them. These problems come and go. I'm running for commissioner to help get the house in order.