Photo: Herndon Mayor Stephen J. DeBenedittis
Immigrant rights and social justice advocates are asking a Virginia town council to rescind an ordinance that prohibits the solicitation of work by day laborers.
In Herndon, Virginia, residents and advocate groups say the specific prohibition of allowing people to tell passers-by that they are looking for work but not outlawing all communication violates the workers’ First Amendment rights.
Though the town of Herndon has been relatively quiet recently, it has a long history of passing controversial ordinances and laws related to immigration. Relatively recently, the town made their official language English, in 21 months they opened and closed an organized day laborer center, and under federal program 287(g), they trained the local police to detain undocumented immigrants.
The day laborer advocates say that local officials were elected last year, because they promised to address the unfairness people believed the ordinance caused, but after six months and no change, they are outraged.
“They were elected under the premise there would be changes,” said Herndon resident Julius Bradley. He said he has yet to see a single change.
In a statement, Herndon Mayor Stephen J. DeBenedittis said, “I’m with [the law] as it is. If I thought there was anything wrong with it, I wouldn’t have voted for it before,” adding that the law “is based on state law, which I don’t think would have passed if there was a Constitutional issue here.”
A previous ordinance was shot down because it was ruled that it was clearly directed to remove the “visual blight” of day laborers, said Anita Sinha, an attorney with Advancement Project, which has previously filed lawsuits in similar cases. The ordinance that is currently in place is an overall anti-solicitation ordinance and includes day laborers and not-for-profits groups.