Federal judge rejects New York town’s law banning laborers soliciting on sidewalks

Federal judge rejects New York town’s law banning laborers soliciting on sidewalks

[JURIST] A judge for the US District Court for the Easter District of New York [official website] on Thursday ruled [opinion, PDF] that a Long Island town’s law preventing day laborers from soliciting work on sidewalks is an unconstitutional violation of the First Amendment. In ruling, Judge Denis Hurley stated, “[t]he [Oyster Bay] ordinance prohibits speech and conduct of an expressive nature that does not pose a threat to safety on the town’s streets and sidewalks. It reaches children selling lemonade at the end of a neighbor’s driveway, … the veteran holding a sign on a sidewalk stating ‘will work for food,’ and students standing on the side of a road advertising a school car wash.” The New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU) challenged the law in 2009, before it was enacted, and due to the litigation it has never been enforced. After the ruling, NYCLU senior attorney Corey Stoughton stated, “This ruling sends a message to local governments that courts will not let them get away with subverting American constitutional values to pursue an anti-immigrant agenda.” Despite the ruling, executive director of the National Day Laborer Organizing Network [official website] Pablo Alvarado expressed concern that the overruled law was just one of many means by which police seek to prevent day laborers from pursuing their craft, many of which involve enforcing immigration laws. Oyster Bay town supervisor John Venditto reacted to the ruling with disappointment, urging that the law was a necessary measure to keep people from congregating and creating traffic hazards. The town is considering appeal.

US immigration law [JURIST backgrounder] and the use of racial profiling by law enforcement officials have been ongoing topics of discussion in the US. In April the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled that the Maricopa County, Arizona, Sherrif’s Office and, specifically, Sheriff Joseph Arpaio, engaged [JURIST report] in practices of racial profiling in conducting traffic stops. Last year the UN Committee Against Torture urged the US to open investigations [JURIST report] into all cases of police brutality and excessive use of force by police officers, expressing concern over the use of force against certain people and the use of “racial profiling by police and immigration offices.” In 2013 the American Civil Liberties Union accused governmental surveillance centers of invasion of privacy and reliance on racial and religious profiling in their Suspicious Activity Reports, urging [JURIST report] the centers to adopt stricter standards of reporting.