JUNE 12, 2007
A New York town will pay six illegal day laborers $550,000 and forbid its police department from checking suspects’ immigration status to settle a discrimination lawsuit that claims the men were harassed because they are Hispanic.
The case stems from a much-needed police crackdown on disruptive and violent loitering in a public park in Mamaroneck, a town of about 20,000 residents located some two dozen miles from New York City. Multiple complaints of hundreds of drunken men fighting, littering, urinating and defecating at the park’s makeshift day laborer hiring site led to police to shut it down.
A Latino rights group sued the town alleging that the illegal immigrants’ constitutional rights to assemble and exercise free speech were violated. The suit also accuses village officials of discriminating against the day laborers – all admitted illegal aliens who didn’t use their real name in court documents for fear of deportation—simply because they are Hispanic.
Mayor Philip Trifiletti, a defendant in the case, said he was simply taking a totally out of control situation and bringing it under control. “They were trashing our village and they were trashing our park,” the mayor said when the case went to court last year.
A White Plains federal judge named Colleen McMahon sided with the illegal immigrants ruling in November that police had deliberately harassed the day laborers because they were Hispanic. In her decision Judge McMahon actually wrote that “the fact that the day laborers were Latinos, and not whites, was, at least in part, a motivating factor in defendants’ actions.”
Besides the hefty cash sum, this week’s settlement includes specific prohibitions on what the judge considers police misconduct and discriminatory behavior towards illegal immigrants. Now officers cannot even tell workers to “move on” as they solicit on the streets or leave the place where they are standing unless there is an actual violation of New York law concerning disorderly conduct.
Because it’s a federal court-approved settlement, this case could very well have nationwide implications regarding millions of illegal day laborers who solicit work on public streets and parks around the country.
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