Southern Poverty Law Center, National Day Laborer Organizing Network Sue After Alabama Police Chief Refuses to Release Public Documents that May Reveal Racial Profiling of Latino Day Laborers
FAIRFIELD, Ala. – The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) and the National Day Laborer Organizing Network (NDLON) filed suit today against an Alabama police chief after he refused to release public documents that could reveal the targeting and racial profiling of Latino day laborers in his city.
The lawsuit against Fairfield Police Chief Leon Davis Jr. was filed in Jefferson County Circuit Court after he refused to release public documents that could confirm that Latino day laborers and construction workers have been wrongfully targeted under a municipal ordinance that requires certain individuals to obtain permits to work within the city.
“By law, the public has a right to view these records,” said Michelle Lapointe, SPLC staff attorney. “We are merely asking that the police chief abide by state law and provide transparency about how his department enforces the ordinance. We want to ensure that this ordinance is being enforced without racial profiling or unconstitutionally targeting low-wage workers.”
The groups sent the first of several official requests for documents under the Alabama open records law in April, but Davis refused to comply. Today’s lawsuit asks the court to force the police chief to hand over documents related to policies and procedures for enforcing Fairfield Ordinance No. 897, including arrest reports, complaint forms and other public records.
In 2012, federal courts struck down as unconstitutional a provision of Alabama’s anti-immigrant law that sought to criminalize the solicitation of work by day laborers. The U.S. Constitution guarantees day laborers the right to look for work. Laws that are enforced to restrict their rights are likely invalid, especially if enforcement targets a particular racial or ethnic group.
“Working is not a crime – not under federal law, not under Alabama law and certainly not according to the principles of dignity and common sense,” said Jessica Vosburgh, NDLON staff attorney and coordinator of NDLON’s Alabama Worker Center, whose members first raised concerns about the ordinance. “We are seeking these records to shed light on whether Fairfield is respecting the rights of the hardworking Alabama residents who contribute to its economy.”
A copy of the lawsuit can be viewed here: http://sp.lc/1q03uCm.