After learning that police in Fairfield, Alabama, may have been using a city ordinance to harass low-wage Latino day laborers, the SPLC and the National Day Laborer Organizing Network asked the police chief for arrest reports, complaint forms and other public records to determine if Latinos were being targeted. When the police chief refused to respond, the SPLC and the day laborer group filed a lawsuit to compel him to release the records.
The groups sent the first of several official document requests under Alabama open records law in April 2014, but Fairfield Police Chief Leon Davis Jr. refused to comply. The documents, which are public records, were necessary to determine if Fairfield Ordinance No. 897, which criminalized workers who do not obtain certain permits required by the city, was being used to single out Latino construction workers.
The U.S. Constitution guarantees day laborers the right to look for work. In 2012, federal courts blocked, as unconstitutional, provisions of Alabama’s anti-immigrant law that criminalized the solicitation of work by day laborers (regardless of immigration status) and criminalized work by individuals who lacked authorization. The Fairfield ordinance at issue in this case is not directly related to Alabama’s anti-immigrant law, but may be being used to further discriminate against workers and immigrants.