Michelle Soto-Melgar

Street and Sidewalk Codes: Studying Day Labor Solicitation Ordinances as Symbolic Legislation

Have you ever wondered why governments pass risky legislation–legislation that is likely to fail and goes against an administration’s own livelihood? My research will focus on symbolic law and the practicality of day labor solicitation ordinances. In the late 2000s, day labor solicitation bans emerged as an attempt to police and drive out Latino day workers from their communities. Many of these bans were legally challenged, ruled unconstitutional, and stopped from ever going into effect. Despite the legal challenges, some administrations pursued this regulation anyway, costing them millions in legal fees. Prior research on day labor solicitation ordinances has focused on the discriminatory practices and constitutionality that day labor bans entail. Yet, little is known about why local governments pursue day labor ordinances knowing the financial and legal risks. In a single case study, I will examine the back-and-forth litigation of Oyster Bay, New York’s day labor solicitation ban. Using socio-historical legal analysis and drawing upon archival data, legal documents, and public records, I will examine why this administration continues to spend state and local resources pursing a day labor solicitation ban at the expense of their financial and legal ruin.

Message to Sponsor

I want to give a special thank you to the Leadership fund for their generosity. Having the opportunity to conduct independent research as an L&S SURF fellow will help me develop the research skills necessary to pursue my interest and love for learning about law using a social science approach. This opportunity also gives me a chance as a first-generation student to see if a career in research is right for me.
  • Major: Legal Studies, Chicano Studies
  • Sponsor: Leadership Fund
  • Mentor: Jonathan Simon