January 24, 2011 | 6:00 AM (PT)
Once upon a time, Herndon, a small town in Virginia, could no longer tolerate the sight of Latino men soliciting jobs in public places.
It made an ordinance, specifically forbidding day laborers from finding jobs. The law was nothing more than an ugly and xenophobic attempt to get rid of the Latinos on the sidewalk looking for work. A Fairfax County judge rightly struck it down as unconstitutional.
Herdon did not learn its lesson. At a time when unemployment is soaring through the roof, Herndon would rather prevent people from finding jobs and making ends meet. The outgoing city council moved to enact a broader ordinance, banning all solicitation on streets and sidewalks. The result? Now cheerleaders, non-profit fundraisers by community groups, and panhandlers are banned from soliciting money, too.
The law continues to quash free speech with the sole intent of discriminating against mostly Latino laborers seeking day-to-day employment. Indeed, the original draft of the ordinance proposed to “eliminate the visual blight of Latino workers.” This has not set well with some Herndon residents who complain that the measure is anti-immigrant and has nothing to do with the public safety concerns raised by its proponents.
Virginia New Majority and the National Day Laborer National Network (NDLON) are some of the organizations working on rescinding the bill. The organizations have already threatened to file suit against the city if it does not amend or abolish the ordinance.
The incoming city council is open to reviewing and amending the bill so that it passes constitutional muster in a court of law. Restore sanity in Herndon. Ask the City Council to end the restrictions against day laborers.
Prerna Lal is co-founder and Online Coordinator of DreamActivist and a board member of Immigration Equality. She is currently attending George Washington University Law School.