Suburban village north of New York smoothes discrimination lawsuit

A suburban village north of New York guilty of discriminating against Hispanic day laborers has tentatively agreed to prohibit police from asking the workers about their immigration status.

In addition, the Village of Mamaroneck must pay more than $500,000 (374,392 EUR) of the workers' legal fees, the attorneys said.

The workers "have sought from the village nothing more than to be left alone and be allowed to seek work," said their lawyer, Alan Levine. "It is sad that it took a lengthy and costly lawsuit to establish such a fundamental right in Mamaroneck."

Village attorney Lino Sciaretta confirmed that an agreement had been reached but said he could not comment before it was ratified. The village Board of Trustees was to meet Monday night.

Because it would be a federal court-approved settlement, the agreement could influence the treatment of day laborers elsewhere around the country, where they have become an increasingly visible symbol of the immigration issue.

Federal Judge Colleen McMahon ruled in November that the village, which is 23 miles (37 kilometers) north of New York City, discriminated against Hispanic day laborers when it closed a hiring site, forcing the workers onto the streets, and then stepped up police patrols on the streets.

"The fact that the day laborers were Latinos, and not whites, was, at least in part, a motivating factor in defendants' actions," the judge wrote.

While finding the village liable, McMahon did not immediately impose a penalty, instead ordering the two sides to come up with recommendations in 10 days.

That was seven months ago, and the two sides have been meeting on-and-off since then, repeatedly winning extensions from the judge. The current deadline is June 20.

A call to Mayor Philip Trifiletti, a defendant in the lawsuit, was not immediately returned. Another defendant, police Commissioner Edward Flynn, was on vacation, his office said.

The Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund, which represented the six Hispanic immigrant plaintiffs, said the agreement includes "specific prohibitions on police misconduct and discriminatory behavior toward day laborers, including a prohibition against routine police inquiry into the immigration status of day laborers."

It said a monitor, to be appointed by the judge, would ensure that the village complies. And it said the plaintiffs' lawyers would receive $550,000 (411,831 EUR) from the village.

Not part of the agreement, but possibly a key element in reaching it, was the announcement last week by the Hispanic Resource Center that a new hiring site for day laborers is to open Tuesday in Mamaroneck on private property.