Proposed Suffolk County Law Unfairly Criminalizes Day Laborers, NYCLU Testifies
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
NEW YORK- The New York Civil Liberties Union today expressed its firm opposition to an anti-immigrant ordinance under consideration by the Suffolk County legislature, arguing in testimony that the bill criminalizes “standing while Latino” by unfairly targeting day laborers seeking work.
“The proposal before the Legislature today will devastate the lives of Suffolk County residents by preventing day laborers from supporting their families and putting food on their tables,” said Udi Ofer, NYCLU Legislative Counsel, in testimony before county lawmakers. “It is an attempt to stifle the economic opportunities available to immigrant and Latino workers.”
The NYCLU testified that the bill would discriminate against day laborers, who are overwhelmingly immigrant and Latino, engaged in constitutionally protected activities. The bill would make it illegal for day laborers to loiter or stand along county roadways while impeding the free passage of pedestrians or cars. It would also outlaw loitering or standing along county roadways for the purpose of soliciting or selling any product or service to a person in a car. The NYCLU said that these regulations would unduly infringe on Suffolk residents’ First Amendment rights to seek work in public spaces.
According to the NYCLU, this proposed legislation is the latest in a series of thinly veiled attempts by the Suffolk County Legislature to create an inhospitable environment for immigrant workers. Local police officials do not have statistics on the number of accidents associated with day laborers soliciting jobs on county roadways. Moreover, lawmakers and police officials have yet to explain why current road safety laws – such as New York State’s Vehicle and Traffic Laws – are inadequate to safeguard roadways. “Road safety is simply a smokescreen for the real motivations behind legislation that is actually intended to target Latino day laborers trying to make a decent living,” the NYCLU said.
“This bill is no innocent public safety measure,” said Donna Lieberman, NYCLU Executive Director. “Instead, it is a hostile attempt to drive day laborers from roadsides and, indeed, from Suffolk County itself.”
In addition to being anti-immigrant and anti-Latino, Ofer testified, the bill is plainly unconstitutional. The First Amendment protects the right of people to solicit work in public spaces, and the bill infringes on this right by discriminating against day labor speech and preventing day laborers from soliciting work. Similar ordinances have been struck down as unconstitutional by federal courts.
“This bill would further drive the rise of anti-immigrant and anti-Latino sentiments in Suffolk County and the nation,” said Dolores Bilges, Executive Director of the NYCLU’s Suffolk Chapter. “Suffolk County should be welcoming immigrants instead of stirring hysteria with allegations unsupported by evidence.”
The NYCLU’s testimony is available online at: www.nyclu.org/day_laborers_suffolk_tstmny_030607.html
Every month, you'll receive regular roundups of the most important civil rights and civil liberties developments. Remember: a well-informed citizenry is the best defense against tyranny.
The latest in Immigrants' Rights
Three Years Later, COVID-19 is Still a Threat to People Who Are Incarcerated
Florida Sheriff Settles Lawsuit for Unlawfully Profiling and Detaining Florida Resident Born Abroad
ACLU Slams Biden’s Plans to Revive the Practice of Detaining Migrant Families
Child Labor Investigation Reveals Immigration Policy Changes We Need Now
The American Civil Liberties Union is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to every person in this country by the Constitution and laws of the United States of America.
Learn More About Immigrants' Rights
The fundamental constitutional protections of due process and equal protection embodied in our Constitution and Bill of Rights apply to every person, regardless of immigration status.