League City slapped with day labor lawsuit

July 22, 2011 4:40:32 PM PDT
A fight in League City over day labor. Workers have filed a lawsuit, claiming police are harassing them, preventing them from getting daily jobs.

Back in 2009, League City Police Chief Michael Jez began what he called a crackdown on day laborers, and now a group of day laborers is suing the police department for what they call outrageous fines and false arrests.

Isaias Leiva is waiting for work, under a carport in League City. It was four years ago he came here from Honduras looking, he says, for a better future for his family.

Leiva says League City police have not made it any easier for day laborers, and now a lawsuit hopes to stop what many day laborers call harassment by police.

Business owner Randy Wagoner, who was just dropping off a day laborer, says he's witnessed the harassment.

"They have to make a living like everybody else. They got bills and they got family," Wagoner said.

He says day laborers help him provide service in League City.

A lawn maintenance crew hired to mow League City easements actually hired to day laborers that were promoted to full time, but a lawsuit says harassment by officers must stop.

On behalf of day laborers, the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund has filed a lawsuit against League City Police Department to stop them from targeting day workers with tickets up to a $1,000 and even imprisonment.

"In America, everyone has a right to freedom of speech whether you're looking for day work like my clients or whether you're seeking a contribution for your church or asking for spare change on a street corner; you're entitled to express your self that way," said Marisa Bono, an attorney involved in the day labor lawsuit.

Oddly enough, the lawsuit seeks what some League City business owners have been calling for -- a solution.

"The city ought to make areas for them to go to or make a program for them to go to and be picked up everyday," Wagoner said.

The laborers only brought their lawsuit after the city declined to negotiate. They have also included Governor Rick Perry over the constitutionality of a person's right to look for work in public.

The League City Police Department is not commenting, instead they referred us to their attorney who said he has not had time to digest the lawsuit.

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