By Susan Dickson
CARRBORO â€“Â Following claims that the townâ€™s anti-lingering ordinance is unconstitutional, the Carrboro Board of Aldermen voted unanimously on Tuesday to take another look at it.
The board approved an anti-lingering ordinance for the intersection of Davie and Jones Ferry roads in November 2007 after residents of the surrounding neighborhood complained of public consumption, public urination and garbage in the areas around the intersection. Day laborers, many of them Latino, often gather at the intersection in hopes that contractors will come by and offer them work. The ordinance prohibits waiting at the intersection from 11 a.m. until 5 a.m.
On June 16, the Southern Coalition for Social Justice sent a letter to Carrboro Town Attorney Michael Brough and the board alleging the ordinanceâ€™s unconstitutionality. The letter was also signed by lawyers from the N.C. NAACP, the ACLU of North Carolina, the N.C. Justice Center, the N.C. Immigrant Rights Project, the UNC Center for Civil Rights and the UNC School of Law Center on Poverty, Work & Opportunity, as well as professors in the UNC Immigration/Human Rights Policy Clinic and UNC Civil Legal Assistance Clinic.
â€œWhile Carrboro day laborers often receive day-long employment between 5 a.m. and 11 a.m., many contractors and home-owners regularly seek laborers during the late morning and early afternoon hours,â€ the letter states. â€œThe ordinance has interfered with workersâ€™ ability to obtain employment during these times. Workers who have risked violating the law in an effort to put dinner on their familiesâ€™ tables that evening have been subjected to humiliating herding off the street corner by Carrboro police officers and their cruisers.â€
The letter also states that the ordinance is â€œoverbroad and vagueâ€ and that the authors are â€œdeeply concerned about the ordinanceâ€™s impact on the First Amendment,â€ citing a 2009 N.C. Court of Appeals case in which a Winston-Salem ordinance was struck down because â€œmere presence in a public place cannot constitute a crime.â€
A group of residents came to the board on Tuesday to ask the board to repeal the ordinance.
â€œI understand that the anti-lingering ordinance was discussed at great length,â€ said Judith Blau, a UNC professor and director of the Chapel Hill and Carrboro Human Rights Center. â€œYou could not have recognized the increasing economic hardship thatâ€™s facing everyone in the nation, but most especially the day laborers, and itâ€™s this downturn in the economy that has made employment opportunities more difficult.â€
Alberto De Latorre told the board he has been working in Carrboro for 15 years, not always as a day laborer, but that as the economy has slowed heâ€™s found himself more frequently looking for jobs from the corner.
â€œI am here because Iâ€™m against the ordinance,â€ Latorre said in Spanish, speaking to the board through a translator.
â€œThe corner is part of Carrboro. Itâ€™s always been there, and we always know where to find a job there,â€ he said. â€œI feel frightened to be there and the police showing up at 11. â€¦ It feels bad.â€
Mark Dorosin, an attorney with the UNC Center for Civil Rights and one of the letterâ€™s authors, thanked board members for their recent efforts to work toward solutions for day laborers, but asked them to repeal the ordinance.
â€œWe know you are looking at other issues related to workersâ€™ rights and the day laborers, and we appreciate the consideration of those issues,â€ he said. â€œI urge you not to let this particular issue â€“Â the ordinance and the repeal of the ordinance â€“ get unnecessarily caught up in other issues that you are dealing with.â€