In an escalation of Glendale's attempt to stop day laborers from congregating on streets to seek employment, city officials proposed an ordinance this week to ban the activity.
The ordinance would make it illegal for workers to seek employment on city streets and for contractors and others to hire them. City Council members will vote on the ordinance Tuesday.
Civil rights activists, however, question the constitutionality of such a law.
"The reason that we're very concerned with an ordinance like this is that it really flies in face of the U.S. Constitution, which guarantees freedom of association," said Joel Maliniak, spokesman for American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California. "There is nothing to my knowledge that says looking for an honest day's work is a crime, and that is all these people are doing."
But Frank R. Manzano said the constitutionality of a similar ordinance in Phoenix was challenged and upheld by the 9th U.S. District Court.
Glendale officials decided to proceed with the ordinance, despite announcement of a crackdown by the Immigration and Naturalization Service last week on the hiring of illegal aliens from day-labor pickup areas in Southern California.
"This was in the works far before the INS came out with their plans," Glendale Mayor Carl W. Raggio said.
Raggio also said that city officials doubt the INS will have enough manpower to patrol day-labor sites in Glendale.
INS officials launched a campaign against day-labor employers last Thursday, warning that their vehicles will be confiscated and they will face stiff fines if they are found to be transporting and hiring illegal aliens. However, the Glendale ordinance applies to legal residents and illegal aliens.
Glendale's proposed ordinance reads in part: "No person shall stand on a street or highway and solicit, or attempt to solicit, employment, business or contributions from the occupants of any vehicle. . . . No person shall stop, park or stand a motor vehicle on a street or highway for the purpose of offering or contracting employment to or with another person or persons."
Violators could be fined $50 for the first offense, $100 for the second in the same year and $250 for each additional offense that year, Manzano said.
Glendale City Manager David H. Ramsay told council members during a hearing on the matter Tuesday that the ordinance is necessary to curb the "ongoing problem" at Jackson Street and Broadway.
For more than a year, Ramsay said, city officials have attempted unsuccessfully to discourage the practice by offering alternatives to the laborers.
Alternatives included a "streamlined process" through a state Employment Development Department office on South Central Avenue.
"They could register with the EDD and be contacted by employers," he said. "They didn't have to wait in line or fill out forms. . . ."
However, that program is open only to legal residents and requires participants to register, Ramsay said.
Ramsay and others in favor of banning the practice told the council Tuesday that the laborers, who gather around a Dunn-Edward's paint store and the nearby 7-Eleven store, disrupt businesses, create traffic congestion, cause litter problems and bother women.
Henry Perea, assistant manager of the paint store, told council members that the laborers are a nuisance.
"We don't want them hanging around," he said. "Our customers are afraid to come into the store to buy paint. . . . They are always making comments and leaving trash."
"The shocking thing to me is that they are the same people coming daily," said resident Gene Blankenship. "The thing I'm afraid of is that they're moving into the residential areas looking for work. . . . They appear undocumented. I'd like to see them gotten rid of and I hope this will do it."
But Glendale attorney Curtis H. Ellerman defended the laborers' attempt to find work.
"They do need work," Ellerman said. "There are a lot of people who don't want to work. I don't like their being there, but I like their persistence."
Ellerman told the council that many of his female clients have been harassed while walking between his office and the Courthouse, but that offensive comments come from construction workers rather than the laborers.
"And those comments are in English," he said.
Several laborers who spoke to The Times as they waited for work Tuesday morning said they were unaware of the proposed ordinance and predicted it would pose hardships.
'Only Place I Know'
"This is the only place I know of to get a job," said Jorge, 23, an illegal immigrant living in Pasadena who asked that his last name not be used. "I don't know where else I'll work. I'll probably move around the United States looking for more work."
Like many of the laborers, Jorge said he sends money he earns as a handyman to his family in Mexico.
Alfredo Mayen, 25, a legal immigrant living in Glendale, said day labor provides him with flexibility that allows him to attend school and work toward his high school diploma.
Mayen suggested that city officials consider allowing the workers to gather daily between 6 a.m. and 8:30 a.m. at one assigned location.
"No businesses are open then, there will be no women around and they can ticket us or send us to jail if we stay longer," he said.