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Supreme Court rules for Redondo Beach day laborers

February 21, 2012 12:00:00 AM PST
The city of Redondo Beach cannot prevent day laborers from gathering on street corners looking for work. That decision came Tuesday from the U.S. Supreme Court. Supporters of the day laborers hope their court victory will set a precedent.

Redondo Beach officials say streets and busy intersections have been safer since a more than two-decade-old city ordinance prohibited day laborers from crowding sidewalks to solicit work.

City officials say they are outraged the 9th Circuit Court ruled that the ordinance is unconstitutional. The U.S. Supreme Court refused Tuesday to reverse the decision.

Several other Southern California cities have been forced by the court to repeal similar ordinances.

"The city has always viewed it as a traffic-safety and quality-of-life issue," said Redondo Beach City Attorney Michael Webb. "The members of the community, businesses, residents, would complain about the quality of life and the traffic-safety concerns. The police in response would enforce the law. The law would be prosecuted and the problem would dissipate."

Civil rights organizations like the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF) are claiming victory.

"This is a great victory. It means that the 9th Circuit's decision issued in September concluding that this law and others like it are unconstitutional under the First Amendment will stand and is the law of the land in the Western states," said civil rights attorney Thomas Saenz, president of MALDEF. "And it means that those cities with ordinances like Redondo Beach's should be acting quickly to repeal those ordinances."

"I think if you are going to have an ordinance like that you need to provide a pick-up spot and it needs to be funded and taken care of. I just think the ordinance was out of place," said South Bay resident Robert Tyrrell.

City officials say what frustrates them the most is that the city passed the city ordinance back in 1987 with the blessing of the 9th Circuit Court. Now, some 25 years later, the same court is saying the ordinance is unconstitutional.

Redondo Beach officials say the ordinance boiled down to a safety issue, not a human rights issue.

"We're disappointed that a city can't rely on an ordinance that 25 years ago the 9th Circuit said was Constitutional," said Webb. "It just shows how much society has changed, how much illegal immigration has been a hot-button issue where cities can't take common-sense steps to try and keep people out of soliciting from the street or highway."

City officials say for now they have no other options than to get rid of the ordinance.