PRLDEF congratulates coalition that stopped Avon Park anti-immigration ordinance

PRLDEF (Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund) applauds the efforts of civil rights activists, residents and the broad coalition of opponents who helped defeat Avon Park’s ordinance to punish businesses found to hire undocumented workers. Councilwoman Brenda Gray, the council’s swing vote, changed her vote from last week and rejected the mayor’s proposal.

The ordinance would also have made English the city’s official language and prohibited any municipal business in any other language.

PRLDEF is fighting similar legislation in several other towns and cities around the country.

“We congratulate the many lawyers, civil rights groups and residents of Avon Park who fought hard to defeat this misguided ordinance,” said PRLDEF President and General Counsel Cesar Perales. “These kinds of official actions are hurtful and really don’t address their concerns. I hope that officials in the other cities contemplating this kind of action pay close attention to what happened in Avon Park.”

The council’s first vote June 26 passed 3-2, with Gray joining the majority. Soon after, Avon Park’s City Attorney expressed concern about the legality of the measure. He was asked to resign. The vote propelled activists to rally against the measure and several civil right groups to threatened legal action.

Civil rights groups insist that local anti-immigration ordinances such as the one proposed in Avon Park, Hazleton, PA and Riverside, New Jersey and San Bernardino, CA will invariably lead to discrimination against all Hispanics, whether they are undocumented or in the country legally. PRLDEF has received many complaints from Hispanic citizens who have become victims of harassment in cities where these ordinances have been proposed.

Last week, Hazleton officials approved a measure that has become a model for municipal officials attempting to curtail the flow of undocumented immigrants to their towns and cities. PRLDEF is working with a coalition of lawyers and activists to overturn that ordinance.

“Our position is that the intended results of these ordinances are beyond the scope of local government,” Perales said.

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