A federal judge has struck down as unconstitutional a suburban New York town’s law banning day laborers from soliciting for work on public sidewalks, declaring its broad application could affect children selling lemonade in their driveway.
U.S. District Court Judge Denis Hurley said in a ruling Thursday that Oyster Bay’s law violates the First Amendment, and he suggested that the town’s concerns about public safety could be addressed by enforcing existing state vehicle and traffic laws. The town is considering whether to appeal.
“The ordinance prohibits speech and conduct of an expressive nature that does not pose a threat to safety on the town’s streets and sidewalks,” Hurley said. “It reaches children selling lemonade at the end of a neighbor’s driveway … the veteran holding a sign on a sidewalk stating ‘will work for food,’ and students standing on the side of a road advertising a school carwash.”
The New York Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit along with several other groups challenging the law after it was enacted in 2009. Because of the ongoing litigation, the town has never enforced the ordinance, which called for fines of $250 for violators.
“Localities across the country have undertaken unconstitutional measures like this as a way of targeting vulnerable immigrant populations,” said NYCLU senior attorney Corey Stoughton. “This ruling sends a message to local governments that courts will not let them get away with subverting American constitutional values to pursue an anti-immigrant agenda.”