AUGUST 20, 2008
The sheriff’s department in a southern California county has privately settled an unusual harassment lawsuit filed by illegal immigrant day laborers who claim deputies violated their constitutional rights by preventing them from seeking work on a street corner.
With the help of a notoriously liberal civil rights group, fifty day laborers in the Lake Forest suburb of about 80,000 residents sued the Orange County Sheriff’s deputies who patrol an area infested with loitering illegal immigrants seeking work. Business owners and residents had long complained that the men littered, urinated in public and trespassed.
Officers tried to clean up the area, telling the day laborers that they couldn’t seek work on the street corner and threatening to arrest or ticket them if they did. The day laborers accused the deputies of violating their free speech rights guaranteed by the United States Constitution. Their lawsuit states that the deputies’ actions are illegal and discriminatory because they target the speech of a specific group and leave no alternative avenue for the day laborers to advertise their availability for work.
The case was set to go to trial in a federal courtroom in nearby Santa Ana this week, but hours before opening arguments the Orange County Sheriff’s Department reached a settlement that neither party will disclose. The group representing the day laborers announced that it might make the settlement public next week, but the county seems to have no intention of doing the same.
It seems outrageous that a law enforcement agency would agree not to enforce the law in order to appease those who violate it. If in fact, the Orange County Sheriff’s Department has negotiated a deal that affords illegal immigrants special treatment, the public certainly has the right to know.
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