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Plan would regulate day labor hires

Those hiring the day laborers who are a common sight near valley home improvement stores and nurseries would be required to get a city permit under a plan being contemplated at Las Vegas City Hall.

Mayor Oscar Goodman said Thursday that the city is delving into the issue because businesses “complain bitterly” about the workers congregating outside.

“They defecate, they urinate,” Goodman said at his weekly news conference. “It’s not nice what’s happening out there. They intimidate people who are customers at locations, thrust themselves on them.”

Another reason behind the permits is to protect the workers, who have been robbed and sometimes aren’t paid, the mayor said.

City staff has been examining the issue for about four months with the goal of protecting workers, those hiring them, and the businesses where the laborers gather, city spokesman David Riggleman said.

The plan is in the “seminal state. It’s not in cement. We’re working on it, massaging it,” Goodman said. But one aim is to reduce the number of day laborers, he said.

Goodman suggested the permits would be offered for a nominal fee of $5 and last for an extended period of time. The permits would be accompanied by information on safety and paying Social Security taxes.

Day laborers waiting in front of nurseries, Home Depots, Lowe’s stores and along certain streets, like Bonanza Road, have become a visible reminder to many of the contentious battle over immigration.

The proposal drew a mixed response from members of the Hispanic community.

“This is ridiculous, right up there with chopping people’s thumbs off,” said Vicenta Montoya, an immigration lawyer. “Oscar, what the hell are you doing?”

It’s only a small, if vocal, minority of residents who see day laborers as a problem, she said. “If you don’t want to hire those people, go right by. People find it offensive because too many brown faces are congregating at a corner.”

If there are problems with people urinating and defecating, portable bathrooms could be provided. This is an area where government doesn’t need to get involved, she said.

“We have a tendency to over-regulate behavior that shouldn’t be regulated.”

Xavier Rivas, who hosts a daily radio talk show on KRLV-AM 1340, said members of the Hispanic community have been looking at setting up sites where laborers could be picked up or dropped off.

Otto Merida, president of the Latin Chamber of Commerce, said he sees some value in the idea.

Day laborers have been beaten, left in the middle of nowhere or not been paid, he said.

“If people were to actually have $5 permits, we will know who they are, and it could make a difference.”

The permits, Riggleman said, “could be an enforcement tool when people are creating a negative impact on an area. … This gives police some means of trying to ease encroachment on properties, or impacts on businesses.”

The city’s plan would attempt to cut into the demand for day laborers, instead of the supply.

The threat of a citation could reduce the number of people picking up day laborers and limit how many people are willing to wait outside for work, Goodman said.

Municipal ordinances in other cities that have attempted to reduce the number of day laborers with laws targeting them for loitering have been ruled unconstitutional, the mayor said.

In revealing the proposal Thursday, Goodman appeared to have bypassed any controlled or coordinated effort to reveal the plan.

Riggleman stressed that any new rules would be down the road, and accompanied by a public information campaign.

“There’s a heck of a lot more work to do before we move forward,” he said.

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