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Suit Challenges Ban on Curbside Day Laborers

June 18, 1998

Calling the county's ordinance restricting curbside laborers a violation of free speech rights, immigrant advocates filed suit in U.S. District Court on Wednesday challenging the law.

"Under our Constitution, a day laborer has the same rights to free expression as a businessperson, street musician or political activist," said Thomas A. Saenz, regional counsel at the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, which represents the two plaintiffs.

Filing suit are the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles and the Sindicato de Trabajadores por Dia, a union representing day laborers.

The 1994 L.A. County ordinance--one of a number of such laws passed in Southern California--bans day laborers from seeking employment while standing on sidewalks in the unincorporated areas of the county. Lawmakers acted in response to complaints about job-seekers from residents and businesses in Ladera Heights, East Los Angeles and elsewhere.

Proponents say the laws were needed to avoid unregulated street-side hiring practices that create traffic hazards. The lawsuit seeks to convince a federal court that the actions violate free-speech rights guaranteed by the 1st and 14th amendments.

A spokeswoman for Supervisor Yvonne Brathwaite Burke, who sponsored the day-laborer ordinance and is named as the lead defendant in the suit, said the measure had helped reduce problems associated with curbside hiring.

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