Judge Rules Town’s Day Laborers Can Gather to Ask for Work; Banning Solicitation on Sidewalks Unconstitutional
September 9, 2015
by Nia Hamm
OYSTER BAY, N.Y. – A Long Island suburb must decide whether to appeal a federal judge’s ruling that a town law banning day laborers from soliciting work on public sidewalks is unconstitutional.
U.S. District Court Judge Denis Hurley ruled that the Oyster Bay ordinance violates the First Amendment, and said the town’s concerns about traffic problems could be addressed using existing state traffic laws.
Maryann Slutsky, who heads the immigrant advocacy group Long Island Wins, believes the law was less about traffic and more about unfairly targeting Latino immigrants.
“It was targeted to the Latino day laborers who gather on street corners in Oyster Bay, and it was really kind of created to get those day laborers out of the town,” she says. “The undertones there were really racism.”
The New York Civil Liberties Union and several other groups challenged the law after it was enacted in 2009. Senior attorney Corey Stoughton says the ruling sends a message that First Amendment rights are everyone’s rights.
“It’s a reminder that even in the face of community hostility, when that hostility spills over to try to take away rights that belong to everyone, including First Amendment rights, the Constitution and the courts will step in and ensure that those rights are protected,” says Stoughton.
Oyster Bay Town Supervisor John Venditto says the town’s outside counsel has recommended appealing the ruling, but town officials haven’t made that decision yet.
In a statement, Venditto said the law was meant to address safety concerns about traffic hazards caused by day laborers gathering in various communities. Since being enacted, the law was never enforced because of the ongoing litigation.
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