Federal Judge Sides With Day Laborers

AP, May 3, 2006

A federal judge prohibited the city of Redondo Beach, Calif., from arresting day laborers for violating a local ordinance against soliciting work in public, a ruling likely to draw attention across the U.S. as cities face increasing numbers of day laborers.

The ordinance violated the First Amendment right to free speech, U.S. District Judge Consuelo Marshall said in the strongly worded decision disclosed Tuesday by lawyers.

“This sends a strong message to municipalities that they can’t eliminate the presence of day laborers in the street,” said Pablo Alvarado, director of the National Day Labor Organizing Network, which filed the lawsuit against Redondo Beach.

City Attorney Mike Webb said he planned to appeal unless the City Council directed him otherwise.

“We have to address the residents’ valid concerns,” Webb said. “And we have to be able to stop people from running out in the street to solicit work.”

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The National Day Laborer Organizing Network and the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund filed suit on behalf of the workers.

One of the men arrested was Braulio Gonzalez, 50, of Guatemala. He said day laborers clapped in celebration when they were told of the judge’s decision.

“This is a victory for day laborers,” said Gonzalez, who has been soliciting work in Redondo Beach for 24 years. “The police shouldn’t bother us now.”

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