Civil liberties group wants to hear from individuals cited by town officials.Herndon, VA – The American Civil Liberties Union today warned the Town of Herndon against issuing zoning violation citations to property owners who allow day laborers to solicit employment from public sidewalks located on their property.
The ACLU maintains that individuals have a free speech right to engage in conversations about employment while standing on public sidewalks, so long as they are not preventing others from passing. The ACLU believes that property owners cannot be legally cited for zoning violations when they allow individuals to use public sidewalks to engage in constitutionally-protected activities.
Herndon’s novel approach to restricting communications between day laborers and prospective employers was announced earlier this week after a Fairfax County Circuit Court Judge ruled that the town’s anti-solicitation ordinance violated the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The ACLU later exacted a promise from town officials to stop enforcing the ordinance.
The anti-solicitation ordinance prohibited pedestrians from soliciting employment from anyone who is an occupant of a vehicle. It also prohibited the occupant of a vehicle, or someone who temporarily leaves a vehicle, from soliciting a pedestrian for employment. The ordinance applied to individuals on “any portion of a highway, sidewalk, driveway, parking area, or alley.”
“Herndon is trying yet another way to prevent individuals in public places from discussing employment opportunities,” said ACLU of Virginia Executive Director Kent Willis. “But that’s like prohibiting conversations about politics, the weather, or sports in a park. It’s preposterous, and it violates the free speech provision of the First Amendment.”
“In this instance, it is also discriminates on the basis of national origin,” added Willis. “No one was concerned about the very common practice of looking for temporary work in public places until most of the individuals involved were Latino. Now, suddenly, it’s a scourge on society.”
The ACLU warning was issued in a letter to Herndon Town Attorney Richard B. Kaufman from ACLU of Virginia Legal Director Rebecca Glenberg and ACLU Immigrants’ Rights Project Staff Attorney Mónica M. Ramírez. A copy of the letter can be found at http://acluva.org/wp-content/uploads/2009/12/20070918-PWC-immigration-ltr2.pdf.
ACLU of Virginia Contact: Kent Willis, 804/644-8022