LOS ANGELES — The Los Angeles Street Vendor Campaign, the ACLU of Southern California and numerous worker and immigrant rights groups have sent a letter to Mayor Eric Garcetti and the Los Angeles City Council to press for the immediate adoption of an ordinance to complete the decriminalization of street vending in the city.
Many of the vendors are immigrants and earlier this year, in the face of escalating threats to immigrant communities from the Trump administration, the city approved an ordinance that removed criminal penalties for violation of a municipal code section that regulates street vending.
But there remains a major loophole — street vendors can still be cited with criminal charges under laws that regulate vending in parks and "peddling" from pushcarts or vehicles.
City leaders have emphatically stated that the criminalization of street vending should end. Mayor Garcetti, in signing the initial ordinance, said the aim was to protect "hardworking Angelinos who are trying to make an honest living and should not have to worry about a criminal record."
But until action is taken on the two remaining codes, the threat to vendors is all too real.
"I was arrested once in front of my son for selling fruit,” said Isabel Rodriguez, an Echo Park vendor. "I was handcuffed and put in the back of a cop car as my son cried. It was the worst experience of my life. There are so many of us who are afraid to get arrested or deported simply for trying to make a living."
Rodriguez is a leader of the Los Angeles Street Vendor Campaign. "I don’t understand," she said, "how it can still be a crime for me to do my work."
Doug Smith, staff attorney with Public Counsel, urged city officials to act swiftly. "The city can help support thousands of workers, immigrants, and their families by finally ending the unjust criminalization of street vending," he said. "Given the growing threats facing immigrant communities, we implore the City Council to act quickly to finish the work of decriminalization."
"No vendor should be at risk of deportation merely for working to support their family," said Michael Kaufman, the Sullivan and Cromwell Access to Justice Staff Attorney with the ACLU of Southern California. "The city should act swiftly to complete the decriminalization of vending while it continues its work to develop a legal vending program."
The letter is signed by: ACLU of Southern California, Asian Americans Advancing Justice–LA, Bet Tzedek Legal Services, California Immigrant Policy Center, California Immigrant Youth Justice Alliance, CARECEN, Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice, CLUE P♀WER: People Organizing for Women’s Economic Rights, Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles, Koreatown Immigrant Workers Alliance, LA Street Vendor Campaign, LA Voice, National Day Labor Organizing Network, National Domestic Workers Alliance, National Immigration Law Center, National Lawyers Guild–Los Angeles, Public Counsel, UCLA Labor Center.