Renewed Opposition to Carrboro Anti-Lingering Ordinance

An anti-lingering ordinance was passed in 2007 in response to neighborhood complaints of loitering and disorderliness at the intersection of Davie and Jones Ferry Roads in Carrboro (the Town of Carrboro Ordinance 5-20 can be viewed here starting on page 8). This intersection (and the Pantry located there) is one of the most popular sites in our community for the gathering of day laborers to meet potential employers.

Local organizations have raised concerns over this ordinance unfairly targeting minority residents and not being constitutional. In fact, the North Carolina ACLU raised such issues when the ordinance was being drafted. Concerns were also voiced on Orange Politics both before and after the ordinance was put in place.

Now, a letter has been sent to the Carrboro Town Attorney, Michael Brough, with the alderpersons copied, laying out the legal case against the ordinance and calling for it to be rescinded. The following organizations have signed on to this letter: The Southern Coalition for Social Justice (Chris Brook, lead author), the UNC Center for Civil Rights, the North Carolina NAACP, The UNC School of Law Center for Poverty, Work, and Opportunity, the ACLU of North Carolina, the North Carolina Immigrant Rights Project, and the North Carolina Justice Center.

The letter centers on the ordinance's impact on the First Amendment, arguing that an ordinance cannot be legal without a requirement of 'specific criminal intent' and mere presence at a location does not rise to that level.

Efforts are underway to develop an alternate location that provides more safety and dignity for those seeking work as noted in my previous post. Currently, however, a number of the workers who congregate at the Pantry report feeling uneasy about the presence of police who they perceive, rightly or wrongly, are there to watch them and harrass them when the anti-lingering ordinance kicks in at 11:00 am.



As you can tell from my original post about this ordinance ( I think the whole idea of making it illegal to be someplace at a certain time is nuts, and is like a written invitation to racist profiling. All of the problematic behavior is already against the law, so I believe the Town should focus on enforcing existing laws with a focus on protecting public health and safety of the local patrons and neighbors. 

That there's tons of open-air, obvious illegality going on in plenty
of places that white, liberal Carrboroans frequent. But panhandling and
pot-dealing are things we tolerate, or pretend not to see, or view as
social problems, not criminal problems. This rule is beyond NIMBY; it's N(this particular thing that makes me uncomfortable)IMBY.

Thanks Molly for letting folks know about this. Some additional background is that, because of John Herrera and my opposition, the board passed this ordinance with a scheduled review one year later. That review took place on February 10, 2009. After hearing from several citizens, we decided to schedule a work session so we could discuss it further. That decision was never followed up and the work session did not take place. Here is what I just wrote to my colleagues on this matter:At the February 10 2009 BOA meeting, we heard a mix of views from citizens
which, at the time, led us to the conclusion that further consideration of the
anti-lingering ordinance was warranted. Our failure to do so has led to this
again coming to the fore before the public (see, for example, the letter in
today's Citizen).

I take full responsibility, as one who opposed the ordinance from the outset,
for letting the work session fall through the cracks. Part of the reason I did
not follow up before now was in hopes that the day labor situation would be
resolved with a better site.

Perhaps those of us who attend the meeting on Saturday at El Centro will come away with new insight. Either way, I believe it is time for us to schedule this long overdue work session.Interested citizens should know that, only three of the current board members voted for this ordinance. While that is still just one short of a majority, a new board may come to a different conclusion.  

I was one of those who wrote on OP in opposition to this Ordinance back in 2007. Less because I knew that it was illegal, but more because I took the view it was an unfriendly welcome from a supposedly laid-back and progressive community to those we have invited to come and pursue their dream with us.Still hold that view. And I'm not surprised a host of organizations have expressed their own opposition to the Ordinance since then.Roses for meeting with El Centro. Raspberries though for wanting to try and get these good folks to congregate somewhere else.This is where they choose naturally to meet. If they wanted to go somewhere else, if they were able easily to go somewhere else, then they would do so.And let's be honest, wanting them to be somewhere else ain't about safety or dignity. It's no more unsafe for them than it is for the hundreds of folks who live at Abbey Court, and cross the road to get to the gas station.No. It's about NIMBY. And we in Carrboro should be better than that. Why not just leave 'em alone to do their free enterprise thing? And if they break the law, call the Police (I find the response time in that part of town - I live at University Lakes - is generally not more than 10 minutes).Meanwhile, if I had a vote, I would be one simply to rescind the Ordinance. Live and let live.

In a letter to Carrboro, attorney Christopher Brooks of the Southern Coalition for Social Justice writes about "Workers who have risked violating the law in an effort to put food on their families' tables." Mauricio Castro of the NC Latino Coalition revealed that these day laborers are largely from  Mexico and Central America. If we're honest, then they're most likely illegal immigrants. Surely breaking a Carrboro ordinance is a minor infraction compared to the federal laws these illegals have already violated by coming here. Also, are illegal immigrants protected by the Constitution? In today's CHN, Castro states that black citizens comprise some number of these day laborers. Using supply and demand, the effect of these illegal day laborers on the market is to drive down wages--so illegals are hurting American citizens. Because of the actions of these illegals, African-American day laborers have fewer opportunities for employment, and those opportunities that are available are at a lower wage. Rather than concern themselves with a loitering ordinance, I suggest that social justice organizations focus on improving the lot of our citizen day laborers by making it illegal to hire illegal immigrants.

Dan, thank you for providing that greater insight into the background of the anti-lingering ordinance. Thank you also for engaging in the meeting on Saturday to learn more about the potential of a worker center. I will summarize the meeting in the National Day Laborers Organizing Network thread.Geoff, no one is trying to get the day laborers to do anything, we are working together with all parties to improve work conditions. The status quo is not dignified or safe - on the corner there are no bathroom facilities, workers dropped off with their pay in cash are being robbed, and workers also experience wage theft from some employers. A worker center with rules developed by the workers themselves would help to eliminate these poor conditions. B, we do not have any hard data on number of day laborers who are Black, Latino, illegal, or legal in our community. We are not, however, concerned with assessing the immigration status of our neighbors who need to obtain work in this way. We are working together to improve working conditions for all day laborers including setting a adequate minimum wage - this is in keeping with the values of our community.

Molly: Surely one of our values is respect for the rule of law. We don't tolerate robbery or assault in our community, so how are these crimes different from the ones perpetrated by illegal immigrants? If they are taking food off the table of African American, or any other American, families by working here as Mr Castro stated, then that is criminal. It seems to me that most jobs in construction, landscaping and house cleaning are done by Latinos. Surely this is at the expense of Americans who would otherwise take these jobs. I think that anyone who believes there is solidarity between the African American and Latino communities is mistaken. In this economic climate, with so many African Americans suffering, I'm surprised there isn't more support for the black community. Just my thoughts...

Molly, thank you for your paragraph addressing my thoughts. Excellent! There is much that you say that I simply did not know. It is unlikely these moves are being promulgated by the workers themselves, since they have all sorts of reasons for keeping their heads low. But wide consultation and action only by consensus is the next best approach. And I thank you for all that you and your partners are undertaking.B, to paraphrase slightly, and I know I'll be ridiculed for saying it, but breaking the law is all about dates. I, for one, would like to see the law changed, so that we live up to the invitation emblazoned on the base of the Statue of Liberty, inviting the world's poor and huddled masses to our shores.I know that bad economic times produce fear. But I hope that in our community especially we can overcome those temporary fears enough to re-embrace the principles behind the founding of our nation. We should be about more than just the short-term and the economic. These neighbors of ours are here; let's make sure they are living in safety and dignity.

Geoff, Thanks for your response. The principle behind the founding of our nation was freedom from tyranny. The words from Lazarus' poem that appear on the Statue of Liberty don't have anything to do with what the founding fathers envisioned for our nation. She was expressing her heartfelt desire to help the poor. While I agree that we should welcome immigrants, as a nation, we need to decide who and how many we allow into our country. It's a free for all now. The population of the US has increased by 27 million since 2000 due to legal and illegal immigration. What is the impact of this staggering growth on our society, finances, education system and infrastructure? CNN recently did an expose that stated that many schools are 'failing' because of the resources required to teach the children English. It's a complicated situation, but one that needs addressing, something our government doesn't seem to want to do.

Well B. I think that what was behind the settling/founding/continuation
of our nation is an evolving concept. But however one cares personally
to interpret that concept, it comes back to folks emigrating from
'poverty;' whether it is a poverty of finance, food, freedom or spiritAs to the question of how our creaking infrastructure/public services will accommodate new immigration, I have a few thoughts:

1) I'm guessing every generation has had to deal with that question. It
is a part of being a growing country, which was built and should
continue to be built on immigration. My view is the answer is to be
creative about the infrastructure, not restrictive of what I interperet
as being our purpose as a nation.

2) I see the primary problem with infrastructure/public service/whatever
provision as being less about the number of folks claiming, and more
about the number of people paying and how much they pay. Which is at the
heart of the current dispute between Congressional Republcans and the
White House.

Currently, we have the lowest rate of taxation in US history. And one
that is lower than the rest of the western world, by as much as 5%. A 3%
across-the-board (capital as well as income) increase in tax rates
would yield something over $1 trillion in federal revenue. And leave us
with a tax regime less onerous than when Reagan left office.

3) If we spent less time, money and energy chasing around after all the
folks already in this country, only to attempt to eject them, and rather
incorporated them into the tax-paying workforce, I can't help but
wonder if these folks would not pay for the extra infrastructure and
public services themselves

For those concerned with illegal immigration, the problem is usually framed within the context of its impact on the US.But if we look at the situation from the perspective of Mexico, it's quite different. In effect, the US is depriving Mexico of its the hardest working, most entrepreneurial citizens. To leave your family and home, to cross thousands of miles of desert into a country that is indifferent to you, to find a place to live and a job takes a lot of determination and grit. These are exactly the qualities that Mexico needs from its people if it's to get through this fraught period in its history. And yet, their hardiest citizens are here. Their illegal presence here is weakening Mexico because they aren't fighting to make their country better. As much as our country is founded on (legal) immigration, the US can't be a sanctuary for everyone in the world looking for a better life. How can anyone rationally argue that illegal immigration benefits either the US or Mexico?

I'm afraid, Rob, this is where you lose me. Way too much prescription of peoples' behavior here for me even to begin to respond intelligently.You seem to want to stop them leaving Mexico of their own accord, AND then entering our country of their own accord.As to the 'legality' of immigration, um, exactly who was collecting Green Cards from the Pilgrim Fathers?It's been fun, Rob, but cheerio ...

By undertaking the hardship of coming to the US, the illegals in this country demonstrate a resilience that would better serve their own nation. Seems a simple enough concept.Regarding the Pilgrims, obviously this wasn't a nation when they arrived.

... would disagree with you.  But perhaps this should be a cue for us to move the conversation back onto local issues.

Due to negligence on the part of the federal government, they have forced each community to deal with this issue...


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