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ACLU suing Vista over day laborer ordinance

The San Diego ACLU is suing the city of Vista over new rules that target day laborers. The ordinance requires employers to get permits before hiring the workers. KPBS Radio's Andrew Phelps has more.

At issue is a gaggle of Latino laborers who congregate every morning in a shopping center parking lot. Contractors then scoop them up for short-term jobs.

Vista Mayor Morris Vance joined a unanimous city council to regulate what he calls a slapdash morning routine.

Vance: "As soon as someone drives in there they automatically run to them and harass them and we think that it ought to be more organized. And it's also for the protection of the day laborer as well."

The ordinance requires employers to get briefed on labor and immigration law before getting a free hiring permit. Workers must also sign employment contracts.

But the ACLU's legal director, David Blair-Loy, questions the city's motives.

Blair-Loy: "The city is trying to do through the back door what it can't do through the front, which is to discourage day-laborer hiring and employment, if not drive it out of the city entirely."

The suit claims the rules violate employers' constitutional rights by giving the city excessive influence in hiring. And it contends the law discriminates against Latinos. Vance disagrees.

Vance: "We're not discriminating against anyone. We're attacking a problem. And if it involves ---- the majority of those that are involved are Latino then ---- that's the problem we're trying to eradicate."

Both sides say most of the workers in question can work here legally.

This week the ACLU filed a request for a temporary restraining order to block the ordinance before it takes effect later this month. A judge should rule next week.

For KPBS, I'm Andrew Phelps.

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