Second round of changes to ordinance renders it more likely to pass constitutional muster, but ACLU is concerned that Latinos will face discrimination during enforcementHerndon, VA— For the second time in six months, the Herndon Town Council has significantly improved an anti-solicitation ordinance aimed at cutting down on day laborers seeking employment opportunities from motorists.
Amendments adopted at Tuesday’s meeting make it clear that individuals have a right to stand on sidewalks or the areas between sidewalks and roadways, where they may solicit motorists for job opportunities or donations.
Because the ordinance was originally passed for the purpose of preventing day laborers, most of whom are Latino, from soliciting motorists for work, the ACLU has asked that it be repealed in its entirety to purge it of any hint of racial or ethnic discrimination.
“We would have preferred that Herndon just drop the ordinance altogether,” said ACLU of Virginia Executive Director Kent Willis. “It is still tainted by what we believe to be an animus toward Latinos, and it could still be enforced in a discriminatory way.”
“On the other hand, as it now stands,” added Willis, “it is clear that day laborers -- of all colors and nationalities, we hope -- can exercise their free speech rights on all public sidewalks in Herndon.”
The ACLU objected to the ordinance when it was introduced last summer and threatened to mount a legal challenge at that time. As originally proposed, it would have allowed sidewalk solicitations by government-supported groups -- such as firefighters and high school clubs -- but not by individuals, such as day laborers.
Those discriminatory provisions were stricken before the ordinance passed, but a prohibition on all solicitations from sidewalks in areas where motorists could not pull over to park was added. Tuesday’s amendments made it clear that solicitations are allowed from all sidewalks, regardless of whether or not parking is available for motorists.
The ACLU’s letter, sent to Herndon Town Council members last week, can be found at: http://acluva.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/02/20110204HerndonAntiSolicitationOrdinanceLetter.pdf.
Contact:Kent Willis, Executive Director, 804-644-8022