Jose Luis Jiménez of the San Diego Tribune is reporting this morning on a complicated brew of groups and issues surrounding employers in the city of Vista who hire day-laborers.
Vista is a city of 90,000 in San Diego County. The city passed an ordinance in June 2006 that requires employers who use day-laborers to register with it.
111 employers have registered with the city of Vista under the ordinance.
Last month, Michael Spencer of the Vista Citizens Brigade, which is said to be an offshoot of the anti-illegal immigration Minuteman Project filed an open records request under California law asking for that list of 111 names.
When it learned of this open records request, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed a lawsuit against the city of Vista to stop the city from releasing the names. The ACLU believes that if the names of these employers are released to the public, their privacy rights will have been violated.
Early last week, a judge granted the ACLU’s motion for a TRO (temporary restraining order) preventing the release of the names.
On Friday, July 13, three news organizations asked to intervene in the case on the side of releasing the names: The San Diego Tribune, the Los Angeles Times, and the California Newspaper Publishers Association.
It’s unusual for the ACLU and the press to be on the opposite side of freedom of information issues; they take the same position in such cases 90% of the time according to Jiménez’s article.
The city of Vista has released names of registered employers under the June 2006 ordinance on five previous occasions including, the article reports, on one occasion in response to an open records request from the ACLU. It’s not clear why this request drew this response from the ACLU, although the article reports that they are acting on behalf of four unidentified clients.
The privacy concern here is that the registered employers might be harmed if their names are released–presumably, by the threat of boycott or stigma by activists from the anti-illegal immigration movement. However, previous court rulings in California have stated that even where there is the possibility of harm, this does not necessarily preclude the public’s right to know.