JULY 25, 2011
A small Texas city is being sued for discrimination by dozens of Latino day laborers who claim that police are unconstitutionally targeting their free-speech right to express their availability for employment in public areas, even though a state law has long prohibited it.Collectively known as Jornaleros de Las Palmas, or the Day Laborers of Palmas, the men are represented by a powerful open-borders group (Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund or MALDEF) that specializes in discrimination lawsuits on behalf of Latinos and illegal immigrants. In this case MALDEF accuses police in League City, located southeast of Houston, of targeting Latino day laborers by unconstitutionally arresting them for criminal trespassing when they are looking for work on public sidewalks.The Texas Transportation Code prohibits anyone from seeking work in public areas so League City Police is simply enforcing the law after looking the other way for years. MALDEF wants a permanent injunction prohibiting the city from enforcing the section of the statute that bans any resident—legal or illegal—from seeking work in public areas. To accomplish this, the race card has conveniently been deployed.In their complaint the day laborers accuse police of harassing and intimidating them with extensive patrol units and surveillance and threats of citations and arrests because they are Latino. This has unlawfully subjected the day laborers to harsh fines and imprisonment and violated their First and Fourteenth amendment rights under the United States Constitution, according to the complaint. It has also caused them to suffer “economic harm.”It turns out that League City used to help the day laborers by allowing them to congregate daily in front of the police station, but things got out of hand and last fall officials adopted a “shift in philosophy,” according to a local news report. Day laborers became disruptive by trespassing at convenience stores, littering and obstructing traffic. Some slept in the police station parking lot and others harassed female police officers so the city finally started enforcing the statewide anti-solicitation law.The day laborers’ attorney maintains that the new policy unfairly singles out and punishes her clients. “Day laborers seeking work have the same rights to express themselves as anyone else,” she said. “These are tough economic times and their hard work should be rewarded, not targeted.” Besides an injunction to allow day laborers to solicit work, MALDEF seeks legal fees and “thousands of dollars” in compensation, fines and penalties from the city. Maybe League City should consider starting a benefit plan that also pays for the day laborers health costs and retirement fund.
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