|Arizona Legislature Again Seeks to Criminalize Day Laborers, HB2355 passes the House Cow|
|Advocacy - Anti-Immigrant Bills|
|Thursday, May 21 2009 20:01|
The Arizona legislature is hoping that the third time is the charm when it comes to criminalizing day laborers and their employers. A $3 million deficit did not distract House lawmakers on Tuesday, May 19th from approving a bill, HB2355, which would charge people looking for work and workers on the streets with a misdemeanor “criminal trespass”.
If the bill sounds awkwardly written and dubiously constitutional, it is. In 2007, a similar bill passed the state House and Senate only to be vetoed by then-Governor Napolitano. In 2008, the bill passed the House but died in the Senate.
Day laborers tend to be undocumented and documented Latino immigrants, alike. In fact, in Tucson, Spanish-speaking, Latino U.S. citizens have been among the men that gather at Southside Presbyterian Church in the early mornings hoping to get picked up for a piece-work. For better or worse, day laborers are an integral part of the changing work force.
This year, the bill’s sponsor, Representative John Kavanagh (R-LD8) represents Fountain Hills and Scottsdale. Fountain Hills was the site of a showdown last year when the owner of Pruitt’s Furniture Store called the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Department. Sheriff Arpaio descended on the area and arrested nearly a dozen day laborers for immigration violations. The store became a focal point for two months when weekly protests turned into charged confrontations between immigrant rights advocates, Sheriff Arpaio, and anti-immigrant activists. After weeks of protest, a negotiation process involving all camps pacified the situation.
But Representative Kavanagh wasn’t pacified, arguing that street solicitation disrupts traffic and therefore, destroys communities. During the floor debate, Kavanagh asserted that “illegitimate people seek work on the streets” rather than looking for employment via job postings and newspaper ads.
Perhaps in an effort to reach across the aisle, Kavanagh argues that criminalizing day laborers and employers will generate tax revenue and prevent worker exploitation. While it is true that day laborers are subject to exploitation by employers who fail to pay legal wages, provide no safety and health protections, and provide no compensation for on-the-job injuries, seeking jobs through postings provides no protections from these abuses. The sincerity of Kavanagh’s concern for worker exploitation is suspect.
Arizona residents are increasingly speaking out. Last week Border Action Network and other local groups organized an advocacy day at the capitol in which people from across the state met with legislators to present a pro-active platform for economic health, community security, immigrant integration and rights protections. Each time a bill goes to vote, the organization generates hundreds of emails to legislators. By building a network of individuals and groups who present a meaningful agenda to legislators, respond quickly to bill votes, and who mobilize for the 2010 elections, we can begin to change the tide and hold legislators accountable to all their constituents.
Jennifer Allen is the Executive Director of the Border Action Network, an Arizona-based human rights community organization.
|Last Updated on Friday, July 24 2009 14:49|