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Sunday, April 2, 2006 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Hundreds back day laborers

Seattle Times staff reporter

The Minutemen Civil Defense Corps did not show up for their threatened sting operation of people who hire day laborers, but hundreds of people nonetheless held a counter-rally Saturday in support of the laborers.

CASA Latina, a Seattle nonprofit that supports migrant workers, dispatched teams of protesters to four area home-improvement stores where day laborers congregate.

The crowds were intended to be a counterweight to the Minutemen, an anti-illegal-immigrant volunteer group that last week canceled plans to conduct surveillance on day laborers and post photographs of people who hire them.

A spokesman for the Minutemen said the group canceled because of a lack of manpower.

But it was important to hold the counter-rally anyway, said Hilary Stern, executive director of CASA Latina.

"We want to show that this community does not support hate groups," she said. "We don't want them to think they have permission to do this, that silence is agreement."

With a controversial immigration bill pending in Washington, D.C., the rally, held at the CASA Latina office in Belltown, appeared targeted at the Republican-controlled Congress as much as the Minutemen.

Maribel Martinez, wearing a red raincoat in the drizzle, waved a sign reading, "I am a taxpayer" at passing cars.

"There is this belief that immigrants come and take advantage of services that taxpayers pay for," said Martinez, a 30-year-old secretary and immigrant from Mexico. She declined to disclose her immigration status.

"I don't think they realize that immigrants who work pays the same amount in taxes as any taxpayer."

Jonathan Martin: 206-464-2605 or jmartin@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company

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