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Day Laborer Victory in Texas: Jornaleros v. League City

May 20, 2013 (1 min read)

"This case brought under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 was tried to the court on September 24-28, 2012. The parties consented to the jurisdiction of this magistrate judge for all purposes, including final judgment (Dkt. 18). At issue is League City's alleged policy of targeting day laborers and applying (and mis-applying) state laws to prevent them from soliciting employment in the city. Plaintiff Jornaleros de Las Palmas, an association of League City day laborers, seeks declaratory and permanent injunctive relief, but not monetary damages. Plaintiff sues under § 1983 for a declaratory judgment that Texas Transportation Code § 552.007(a) is an unconstitutional restraint on its members' First Amendment rights to free speech, both on its face and as applied by defendants. Plaintiff also sues for retaliation in violation of the First Amendment and for race and national origin discrimination in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment. ... To summarize, in 2009 League City began a campaign of aggressively enforcing the state's pedestrian solicitation law against day laborers. That law, Texas Transportation Code § 552.007(a), on its face is a content-based restriction on protected speech. As applied by League City, the law is even more restrictive, effectively eliminating the right to solicit on public sidewalks and other public property adjoining city streets. League City seeks to justify its campaign on the basis of public safety, but city records do not show a single traffic accident attributed to a day laborer. Even accepting traffic safety as a compelling governmental interest, however, League City has failed to justify a need to serve that interest through targeting and penalizing day labor solicitation. More effective means were readily at hand, such as directly targeting those who cause accidents and risk public safety without reference to their speech, as currently proscribed under the state's existing traffic and criminal laws. Laws that restrict more protected speech than necessary, like § 552.007(a), violate the First Amendment. In accordance with the above findings of fact and conclusions of law, the court orders that judgment be issued in plaintiff's favor on its claims that Texas Transportation Code § 552.007(a) is unconstitutional on its face and as applied, and for First Amendment retaliation." - Jornaleros de Las Palmas v. City of League City, May 17, 2013.  [Hats off to Rebecca Couto and David Hinojosa of the MALDEF San Antonio office!]