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Workers Demand Rights to the Corner

SANTA ANA, Calif. (CN) - Day laborers say Costa Mesa enforces an unconstitutional ordinance that prohibits them from seeking employment on public streets. The Asociacion de Jornaleros or Association of Day Laborers claims the 2005 ordinance violates the First and 14th Amendments.

The plaintiffs, Asociacion de Jornaleros of Costa Mesa and the Colectivo Tonantzin or Tonantzin Collective, say they are "dedicated to protecting the interests of immigrant workers and their families."

The city claims it enacted its law because of residents' complaints about noise and loitering.

But the workers say that "Solicitation speech is indisputably a form of expression entitled to the same constitutional protections as traditional speech."

The city allows people to protest the war in Iraq shouting and waving signs, the groups say. So it cannot fairly ban someone from waving a sign to seek work.

The ACLU and the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF) have filed seven previous federal lawsuits in California over the past 12 years challenging such ordinances, the Los Angeles Times, reported, and the workers either settled or prevailed in all of them.

The workers say the ordinance is overboard, vague, and lends itself to discriminatory enforcement. They want its enforcement enjoined, and damages for constitutional violations.

They are represented by Gladys Limon with MALDEF and Belinda Helzer with the ACLU.

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