Day Laborers Sue Over Right To Solicit Work On Street
In the latest of many bold legal actions taken by illegal immigrants against local governments nationwide, a group of undocumented day laborers are suing a southern California city for banning them from seeking work on public streets.
The anti-solicitation ordinance is unconstitutional and violates the civil rights of the illegal aliens, according to an 11-page complaint filed this week in federal court. The defendant is Costa Mesa, a suburban city of about 115,000 residents located some 40 miles southeast of Los Angeles.
Passed in 2005, the Costa Mesa law states that it’s illegal for any person to stand on a street or sidewalk and actively solicit employment, business, or contributions from any person in a motor vehicle traveling along a street. It also prohibits any person in a motor vehicle traveling along a street to solicit employment of any person standing on a street, to solicit from or make contributions to any such person, or to solicit and engage in a business transaction.
This violates the first and fourteenth amendments to the U.S. Constitution, the complaint asserts, because it regulates speech on the basis of its contents—banning messages soliciting employment, business and contributions—but allows people to stand on sidewalks with signs, distribute literature and talk to others in lawfully parked vehicles.
The ordinance is “simply illegal,” according to the civil rights attorney representing the day laborers from the Asociacion de Jornaleros and the Colectivo Tonantzin, whose members have been restricted from peaceably expressing their need and avail. “Not only does it discriminate against day laborers but it prohibits protected speech,” the lawyer asserts.
Another representative of the illegal immigrants who heads a renowned Latino civil rights group (Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund—MALDEF), points out that free speech belongs to everyone in society. Day laborers seeking work have as much right to express themselves as the largest corporation employing hundreds of thousands, he says.
The lawsuit was sparked by the arrest of a dozen illegal alien day laborers last year. Costa Mesa police posed undercover as employers and busted the illegal immigrants violating the city ordinance banning solicitation. The lawsuit not only asks Costa Mesa to halt the measure, it asks the city to pay the arrested illegal immigrants damages and attorneys’ fees.
In the last few months alone, illegal aliens across the nation have sued various law enforcement agencies for violating their constitutional rights. Among them is an Ohio sheriff who helped deport a Mexican with false identification cards, a Maryland sheriff who arrested an illegal Salvadoran woman and federal agents who apprehended a group of illegal aliens in a Connecticut immigration raid.
In Oregon an illegal alien actually sued a state agency for denying her costly public services based on her immigration status. That case was resolved a few weeks ago when a state appellate court rejected the illegal alien’s claim that the agency’s director overreached by creating an eligibility requirement—that beneficiaries be authorized to work in the United States—not granted by Oregon’s legislature.