LAKE FOREST - Acting on behalf of day laborer groups, the ACLU of Southern California has filed a First Amendment lawsuit against the City of Lake Forest in federal court. The suit challenges a city ordinance that prohibits, and city enforcement actions that discourage, day laborers from soliciting employment while standing on sidewalks in Lake Forest. The suit alleges that the ordinance and the city's enforcement actions violate the free speech rights of day laborers guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution.
'Day laborers standing on the public sidewalk exercise the same free speech rights as anyone else,' said ACLU/SC Orange County director Hector Villagra. 'The First Amendment has been fought for and passed down over many generations, it is zealously guarded when exercised on the sidewalk and other public places, and it protects everyone living in this nation.'
The lawsuit on behalf of the National Day Laborer Organizing Network (NDLON), Colectivo Tonantzin, and the Association of Workers from Lake Forest states that the city's law and its actions are illegal and discriminatory because they target the speech of a specific group, serve no significant government interest, and leave no alternative avenue for day laborers to advertise their availability for work within the City of Lake Forest. The case was filed late Thursday, and today the ACLU/SC asked for a temporary restraining order to block the city from targeting workers who gather on public sidewalks.
Previous federal challenges to similar ordinances and activities in Los Angeles County, Glendale, and Redondo Beach have been successful.
'Day laborers are members of the Lake Forest community, and they provide an important service through their hard work,' stated Pablo Alvarado, national coordinator of NDLON. 'By filing this case, day laborers are standing up for their right to earn a living for themselves and their families.'
"The workers deserve equal respect and dignity. Working should not be a crime," said Naui Huitzilopochtli from the Tonantzin Collective, an OC-based human rights organization. "Day laborers are easy targets because of their visibility, and they are being unfairly targeted. But the City has no right to try to drive them out of Lake Forest."
'This country was built through the hard labor of immigrants, whether on the railroads in the
19th century or in today's booming housing market,' said Nora Preciado, ACLU/SC staff attorney and Equal Justice Works Fellow, who is representing the day-labor groups. 'This kind of discrimination is contrary to our deepest principles of freedom and fair play.'