Michelle Soto-Melgar Humanities and Social Science
Street and Sidewalk Codes: Studying Day Labor Solicitation Ordinances as Symbolic Legislation
Have you ever wondered why governments pass risky legislation–legislation that is likely to fail and goes against an administration’s own livelihood? My research will focus on symbolic law and the practicality of day labor solicitation ordinances. In the late 2000s, day labor solicitation bans emerged as an attempt to police and drive out Latino day workers from their communities. Many of these bans were legally challenged, ruled unconstitutional, and stopped from ever going into effect. Despite the legal challenges, some administrations pursued this regulation anyway, costing them millions in legal fees. Prior research on day labor solicitation ordinances has focused on the discriminatory practices and constitutionality that day labor bans entail. Yet, little is known about why local governments pursue day labor ordinances knowing the financial and legal risks. In a single case study, I will examine the back-and-forth litigation of Oyster Bay, New York’s day labor solicitation ban. Using socio-historical legal analysis and drawing upon archival data, legal documents, and public records, I will examine why this administration continues to spend state and local resources pursing a day labor solicitation ban at the expense of their financial and legal ruin.