Immigrants’ rights and civil rights advocates rallied today in front of Oyster Bay Town Hall demanding the repeal of a town ordinance that discriminates against immigrant day laborers and violates everyone’s core constitutional rights.
In late September, the Oyster Bay Town Board enacted a local ordinance making it a crime to stand on a public sidewalk and solicit employment. The law, purportedly a public safety measure, unfairly targets day laborers, who are often Latino immigrants. It violates everyone’s constitutional rights to free speech and equal treatment under the law.
“Sadly, this misguided ordinance is more evidence of the anti-immigrant trend sweeping Long Island and the country in recent years. It uses public safety as a smokescreen for intolerance and infringes on the First Amendment rights of all Oyster Bay residents,” said Samantha Fredrickson, director of the NYCLU’s Nassau County Chapter. “The courts have consistently struck down laws like this one as unconstitutional. If Oyster Bay doesn’t repeal this ordinance, the NYCLU may ask the courts to step in once again. Standing while Latino is not a crime.”
The ordinance violates the First Amendment by outlawing basic speech such as “waving arms,” “making hand signals,” “waving signs” and “jumping up and down.” It criminalizes this speech in “all of the areas dedicated to public use for public street purposes” and includes sidewalks, parkways, medians and curbs.
“Laws that target day laborers are as ugly as they are unconstitutional,” said Alan Levine, special counsel to Latino Justice PRLDEF. “Oyster Bay's ordinance is no different.”
Local lawmakers and police officials have not explained why current road safety laws – such as New York State’s Vehicle and Traffic Laws – are inadequate to safeguard the Oyster Bay’s roadways.
“We have to stand up for our rights and we cannot let the town officials discriminate against us,” said Luz Torres, director of Centro Cultural Hispano de Oyster Bay.
The rally was sponsored by the NYCLU’s Nassau County Chapter, the Workplace Project, Farmingdale Citizens for Viable Solutions, Centro Cultural Hispano de Oyster Bay, Long Island Immigrant Alliance, Long Island Wins and Jobs with Justice.