ACLU And MALDEF File Lawsuit Against Arizona Town Over Anti-Solicitation Law

March 25, 2008
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: media@aclu.org

PHOENIX – A local Arizona anti-solicitation ordinance targeting day laborers violates the free speech rights of individuals who express their availability to work by standing in public areas, charged the American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of Arizona and the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF) in a lawsuit filed today in U.S. District Court in Phoenix. 

The coalition filed the lawsuit against the town of Cave Creek and the town’s mayor and deputy mayor on behalf of Hector Lopez, Leopoldo Ibarra and Ismael Ibarra, three longtime day laborers and Arizona residents who in the past successfully solicited employment in Cave Creek by standing in public areas, peaceably indicating to occupants of passing vehicles their availability for temporary employment. Lopez, Ibarra and Ibarra currently wish to make their availability for day labor known but fear that they will be cited or arrested for violating the ordinance.

“This ordinance unfairly and unlawfully singles out and punishes day laborers by taking away their right to free speech,” said Mónica Ramírez, a staff attorney with the ACLU Immigrants’ Rights Project.  “That’s just not the way America works.  The Constitution protects all people in this country, and all persons have the right to communicate freely - particularly in public areas - regardless of their background.”

In September 2007, the Cave Creek Town Council passed an anti-solicitation ordinance that restricts free speech by prohibiting solicitation of employment, business or contributions from the occupants of vehicles when standing on or next to a street or highway - including the sidewalk. The ordinance goes so far as to bar solicitation from occupants in vehicles that are lawfully parked in public areas.

Before the town passed the ordinance, day laborers - who are usually hired by homeowners to perform services like gardening, moving, light construction, housework and painting - solicited work in public areas.

While the town was apparently motivated by a desire to target illegal immigration, the ordinance applies to everyone in Cave Creek, regardless of their nationality or immigration status.  The ordinance is so overbroad that it also applies to Salvation Army bell ringers asking for holiday contributions and high school cheerleaders advertising a car wash on a sidewalk or street. 

The ACLU argues that individuals, regardless of their immigration status, have the right to free speech which includes soliciting employment.

“By attempting to take away the First Amendment rights of day laborers, Cave Creek has endangered the free speech rights of every group in town,” said Dan Pochoda, Legal Director of the ACLU of Arizona. “The very people who fought to have this law passed have, in effect, forfeited their own First Amendment rights to peaceably solicit for their interest or cause.”

Kristina Campbell, a staff attorney with MALDEF, said, “The Cave Creek anti-solicitation ordinance is a clear violation of the First Amendment right to engage in free speech. Day laborers are the most visible and vulnerable segment of the immigrant population, and they and others who wish to exercise their First Amendment right to solicit employment in public places have the right to do so without fear that they will be targeted in an arbitrary and discriminatory manner and suffer fines and arrest as a result.”

Lawyers on the case include Ramírez and Cecillia D. Wang of the ACLU Immigrants’ Rights Project; Pochoda of the ACLU of Arizona; and Campbell and Cynthia Valenzuela of MALDEF.

More information on the case, Lopez, et al vs. Town of Cave Creek, et. al., is available online at:
www.aclu.org/immigrants/discrim/34642lgl20080325.html

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