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Update: Costa Mesa Day Laborer Law on Hold

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By Tanya Roth, Esq. on March 05, 2010 1:02 PM

As discussed in a prior post on this blog, the city of Costa Mesa, in southern California, recently passed a city ordinance prohibiting the solicitation of work or donations from passing cars by persons on the street. A police sting to enforce the law resulted in the arrest of 12 day workers who were then deported. The ACLU, in conjunction with the National Day Laborer Organizing Network and the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund sued, saying the ordinance prevented certain types of speech based upon its content, an action prohibited under the U.S. Constitution.

At least eight other cities throughout California and some in other states have had similar ordinances challenged in court; with nearly all the California laws defeated or settled. On March 2, the southern California newspaper the Daily Pilot reported that the suit against the City of Costa Mesa will temporarily be put on hold.

A suit over a similar law passed by another southern California city, Redondo Beach, is currently awaiting a decision in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. In 2006, the city of Redondo Beach appealed after losing their case to a group of day laborers, who contended that the city's ordinance was targeting them. Until the 9th Circuit decision is handed down, the plaintiffs have agreed not to pursue their suit.

In return, Costa Mesa city authorities have agreed to a moratorium on enforcing the law in question (Costa Mesa Municipal Code, Sec. 10-354). "This is definitely a victory for us that they have agreed not to enforce this ordinance," Belinda Escobosa Helzer, an attorney with the ACLU's Orange County office, told the Daily Pilot by phone.

Helzer goes on to say that based on the outcome of the Redondo Beach trial, Costa Mesa should have stopped to consider more thoroughly whether the law they were attempting to enforce might have been, in fact, unconstitutional.

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