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And here I thought it was the bike racks they were upset about

April 15, 2009

(updated below — UPDATE II)

Escuela Avenue residents–at least the white ones–have tried several times to prevent the Day Worker Center from moving into an abandoned dry cleaning building in their neighborhood.  They first tried complaining about the design of the proposed bike racks.  They then tried writing in all caps on the Voice message board.  Now they have called in Judicial Watch, a “public interest law firm” dedicated to preventing HPV vaccinations, removing Hillary Clinton as secretary of state, and losing lawsuits against cities that support day worker centers.

The tragic irony of this is that Escuela Avenue is home to one of the oldest continuous Mexican communities in California, and one of the few remaining places in Mountain View that houses a significant immigrant population.

The smaller but much funnier irony is that the neighbors are meeting with the representative from Judicial Watch in Los Altos, the city that wrote the book on costly, ineffective and legally unsupported ways to try to keep day workers out of your neighborhood.

UPDATE:  Judicial Watch lost virtually every possible aspect of its case against the City of Laguna Beach, linked above. The appellate court’s opinion in that case is unpublished, which means it won’t affect any future cases, such as if Judicial Watch were to sue Mountain View.  But it is worth looking at to understand the weaknesses of the group’s threats.

The group had argued that the city’s financial support of a day worker center (it paid $200,000 to cover rent and staff) and its promise not to call the INS to the center meant that the city was violating federal law by encouraging illegal immigration, referring undocumented workers for a fee, and providing a public benefit to immigrants ineligible to receive it.  The appellate court rejected each of these claims, ruling that the city does not control the center’s operations and that the existence of the center does not necessarily encourage immigration nor increase the employment of undocumented workers.

Judicial Watch appealed the case to the California Supreme Court, arguing that federal immigration law preempts cities from funding day worker centers.  The Supreme Court refused to even consider that argument, making Judicial Watch 0-for-3.  But the city had to spend nearly $100,000 fighting the case, something for neighbors to consider before doing anything rash.

UPDATE II: The Town Crier’s Eliza Ridgeway reports from the meeting that Judicial Watch held with “neighbors.”  She quotes Judicial Watch’s Chris Farrel as saying, “There’s nothing we like to do more than sue people.”


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