The Costa Mesa City Council shitcanning a controversial ordinance aimed at laborers seeking jobs was applauded today by civil rights organizations.
The ordinance prohibited day laborers from standing on public property and sidewalks to solicit work, subjecting them to possible $1,000 fines and six months in jail. Then-Mayor Allan Mansoor, who is now a state assemblyman, claimed the law was necessary after complaints about laborers littering and engaging in "loud behavior."
But the process to repeal the ordinance had actually been in the works since shortly after it passed, explained current Costa Mesa Mayor Jim Righeimer. The city stopped enforcing it after a March 2010 federal appeals court ruling against a similar ordinance in Redondo Beach.
Indeed, similar laws to prevent laborers from expressing their availability for work on public sidewalks and public areas have been getting struck down all across the country, notes the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).
Arguing Costa Mesa's law violated laborers' rights to free speech, the ACLU of Southern California joined the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF) and the National Day Labor Organizing Network (NDLON) in suing Costa Mesa in February 2010. Those organizations were cheered on at the time by members of Asociación de Jornaleros de Costa Mesa, which represent the laborers, and Colectivo Tonantzin, an Orange County immigrant rights group.
"Workers whose goals are to put food on their tables and who are exercising their First Amendment rights to do so, will no longer have to fear harassment at the hands of their city," says Lucero Chavez, an attorney with the ACLU of Southern California, in a statement on Tuesday's repeal. "The City of Costa Mesa can no longer restrict their fundamental rights."
"We are glad to see this law repealed," says Scott Sink of Colectivo Tonatzin in the same release. "The right to work is a human right and Colectivo Tonantzin stands in solidarity with the Asociación de Jornaleros de Costa Mesa."
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"Day laborers deserve our thanks for advancing constitutional rights for all Americans," adds Jessica Karp, NDLON staff attorney. "Anyone who's ever felt the uncertainty of unemployment should rest assured that the right to publicly express your availability to work and provide for your family is once again protected in Costa Mesa."
Thomas A. Saenz, the MALDEF president and general counsel who originally announced the suit against Costa Mesa in February 2010, may have put it best: "At long last, free speech is again protected for all in Costa Mesa."
Righeimer exercised his right not to speak to City News Service after Tuesday night's vote.