Anti-Illegal-Immigration Group’s Sign Back Up on I-5

Molly Hennessy-Fiske, Los Angeles Times, July 26, 2008

An anti-illegal-immigration group’s Adopt-a-Highway sign was re-posted this week on Interstate 5 near the Border Patrol checkpoint in San Clemente after a federal judge ruled that it did not pose a danger to the public.

State transit officials had moved the San Diego Minutemen’s sign to a less-busy highway in eastern San Diego County, saying they were concerned that it would become a gathering place for protesters and clog the busy interstate.

The Adopt-a-Highway program “is not a forum for advertising or public discourse,” Caltrans officials said on the agency’s website.

The Minutemen sued in federal court, saying that the sign’s removal violated the organization’s right to free speech. A judge ruled last month that the sign did not pose a danger to the public and should be re-posted. It had been moved to a stretch of California 52.

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Attorneys representing the San Diego Minutemen and Caltrans met Friday but did not reach a settlement, said Howard Kaloogian, attorney for the Minutemen. Caltrans does “not believe that there is a 1st Amendment issue,” Kaloogian said. “They believe that the court is wrong.”

A spokesman for Caltrans’ District 11, which covers San Diego and Imperial counties, confirmed that the suit was ongoing but declined to elaborate. The agency “is not permitted to comment further on the judge’s order due to ongoing litigation with the Minutemen,” according to a Caltrans statement.

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Caltrans officials suspended pending Adopt-a-Highway permits last month to review the 19-year-old program’s rules. State officials have said they will seek public comment during the evaluation and hope to release new regulations later this year.

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