Saturday, May 25, 2013

League City versus the United States of America

GCDN has reported on a recent legal judgment in which the City of League City was found guilty of violating the First Amendment rights of laborers soliciting work within its city limits. 
The Constitution of the United States wasn't written yesterday, and by this time, there are are plenty of established case law and administrative precedents for how to compromise and balance individual vs. collective rights.  But the City of League City arguably doesn't have the best track record when it comes to learning by example, or even by blunt suggestion.  In this case, litigation has succeeded where other methods failed.  Litigation that you, the taxpayer, paid for, of course. 

Sign photo from Wikipedia.  
Houston Chronicle covered the same ruling in some depth in a feature titled "Case proves Constitution works for day laborers, too". 

Unfortunately, both of those stories are behind the paywall, and I can't find where the Associated Press or any other major outlet has picked up on this yet.  You'd think they would - after all, it's not every day that a branch of American government is found guilty of violating the Constitutional rights of its own citizens, for crying out loud.  HuffpostNYTCNNSlate? Anyone??  A few weeks ago, pretty much all of you covered the "if it bleeds, it leads" story of the West, Texas explosion ad nauseum, but the League City implosion which is far more nauseating?  Not sufficiently titillating?? 
If any of you people decide to get off your journalistic duffs and actually investigate this story, you'll probably want to get some live-action feedback from persons directly affected by the Court ruling.  You might want to toddle on down to the area south of the intersection of FM 518 and Texas Avenue, which is one of the very few local places where affected persons can still be found, albeit in reduced numbers. 

Image screengrabbed from Googlemaps ground view. 
The predicament in which the declining state of the mainstream news media (MSM) has placed us grows more dire by the day.  Without question, this is one of our most important local stories of the year, but given the haphazard and decentralized way in which League City residents tend to receive news, you can bet that most of them don't have access to this information.  That snippet at the bottom of my blog where I quote Thomas Jefferson as saying "When the press is free and every man able to read, all is safe"?  Let's me make a profound understatement in saying that I'm worried. 

So the MSM is MIA, but you can read a synopsis of the litigation here.  Basically, what happened is that the Court found the City of League City guilty of interfering with the rights of local laborers who solicit work by presenting themselves at public locations on a daily basis.  This case centered on Constitutional rights and had nothing to do with the immigration status of any of those persons - that's a different legal question.  And the result was not surprising because case law has confirmed time and time again that all persons in this country have Constitutional rights.  
Whether or not anyone likes this provision is not the point.  The point is that the provision exists.

Screengrabbed from this University of Nebraska website (actually a subpage produced by the College of Journalism and Mass Communications... hmmm, maybe they would like to report on this story...). 
In editorializing, I can go further than either the pay-throttled and outright-silent MSM.  Here is my personal prediction regarding the City of League City's relationship with its minority populations: 

Unless something fundamentally changes, this litigation is not going to be where the problem ends. 

This will not be the last time League City steps on its own d*ck in this regard - and you'll please excuse me for using such an impolite metaphor, but I really can't think of any other succinct way to deliver that perspective complete with all the nuances that it warrants.   

The fact that the workers whose Constitutional rights were violated were overwhelmingly if not exclusively Hispanic is not an accident.  I've seen surprising insensitivity toward people of color here.  I've seen this city, as a municipal entity, fail to weigh the perspectives of minority populations.  I haven't blogged about that to date in part because I was trying to approach the issue via the aforesaid blunt suggestion route rather than the public castigation route, but the US District Court has now sort of beat me to the punch line in that regard. 

What I've seen happen here is not racism or discrimination in an ouvert or intentional sense, but is more along the lines of pure ignorance that there might be people living in this city whose skin is not white, people whose personal histories and world views and resulting perceptions might have evolved in a very different manner from those of a stereotypical WASPy suburbanite.
Racially, we as a proverbial bedroom community don't exactly mirror the great state in which we find ourselves, but - surprise! - almost one third of this city self-identifies with some ethnicity other than Caucasian. 

Information distilled to improve readability from this US Census site.   
If you need evidence consistent with my insensitivity assertion above, just take a look at the aftermath-to-date of this present litigation.  Has League City issued any kind of usual-and-customary PR recognizing that maybe it ought to re-examine how it deals with racial minorities?  Is there a "we might need to reflect on how we do business" or "we never intended to offend any particular racial group" thread running through any of this?  Not that I can see.  I can find no such position statement on its website or in recent City-generated email blasts.  And nothing responsive in the news reporting except for this statement which I've reproduced from Chris Gonzalez's piece, a statement which appears to have been issued with respect to the potential for a legal appeal rather than as an acknowledgement of any larger principle of human decency: 

“At this point, the city’s legal counsel is still reviewing the decision and its ramification,” said League City spokeswoman Kristi Wyatt.

Surely League City can muster the depth and sensitivity to do better than that, even if they privately don't believe that they should be so obligated. 

If instead it had been some of these guys sitting on private-property wooden fences near the intersection of Main Street and Texas Avenue, sitting at the edges of public rights of way and beckoning to cars that pass by, there wouldn't likely have been any harassment by the City of League City, would there? 

This group of fence-beckoners tends to be very white, and we automatically recognize that white people have a Constitutional right to deliver their message regardless of what country they happen to be from or whether they're even in the United States legally. 

Not so much for brown people, though.  Not yet, anyway. 

Photo screengrabbed from this Wikipedia JPG

No comments:

Post a Comment

I'm forced to moderate comments because the spammers have become too much for me to keep up with. If you have a legitimate comment, I will post it promptly. Sorry for the inconvenience.