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Judge lets employers' names stay private

September 21, 2007|Tony Perry | Times Staff Writer

Vista city officials cannot disclose the names of residents who received permits to hire day laborers, a judge ruled Thursday in granting a request by the American Civil Liberties Union of San Diego and Imperial counties.

The ACLU's request was opposed by a coalition of newspapers and the Washington-based Immigration Reform Law Institute. Superior Court Judge Michael Orfield agreed with the ACLU that the privacy rights of the permit-holders outweighed the public's right to inspect governmental records.

"This case is an island of privacy in a sea of disclosure," said ACLU attorney David Blair-Loy.

Orfield's preliminary injunction will prevent disclosure pending further court action.

"This case is not over," said Sharma Hammond, attorney for the Immigration Reform Law Institute, which represents Michael Spencer, a Vista resident and anti-illegal immigration activist who is seeking the names of permit-holders.

Hammond said the losing side can appeal Orfield's order or seek a trial on the merits of the privacy versus disclosure issue.

In June 2006, the Vista City Council, battered by controversy over illegal immigration, passed the permit ordinance. The permits, which are free, do not require employers to inquire about the immigration status of laborers, but employers are provided with information reminding them of federal immigration laws.

Of 121 people who have received permits, the names of 111 were disclosed before the ACLU filed its lawsuit.

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tony.perry@latimes.com

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