Case Status: Victory
Perez v. Posse Comitatus
Citizens group sued for discussing immigration
Sachem Quality of Life (SQL), a non-profit community group, was formed in response to politicians’ refusal to deal with an explosion of illegal immigration in the Farmingville area of Long Island. Its members want to protect their quality of life in the face of problems brought on by the influx of illegal aliens. When some labor groups in the area took issue with SQL’s arguments they didn’t address SQL’s reasoning. Instead, they sued claiming that SQL’s activities violated their rights! Fortunately, CIR stepped in to defeat this groundless lawsuit and protect a citizens right to organize and speak.
After SQL gained local prominence by speaking out against the problems, lobbying government officials to enforce the law, circulating petitions, and peacefully demonstrating, advocates for the illegal aliens responded with a lawsuit. The class action lawsuit against SQL — and six other organizations that have expressed similar views –attempts to tie a September, 2000 assault on two Mexican day laborers to the groups. The suit was brought on behalf of the two assault victims and all other Hispanic day laborers. It alleges a conspiracy “entered into for the purposes of intimidating and creating a climate of fear within the Mexican/Chicano and Latino communities of the state of New York.”
The plaintiffs seek to silence the residents of Farmingville
The only real intimidation in this case was by the plaintiffs, who are attempting to silence SQL by forcing this small non-profit group to incur legal expenses it could ill afford. The lawsuit did not allege that any member of SQL participated in the attack on the Mexican day laborers or in any other acts of violence. Moreover, the plaintiffs did not allege that any SQL member has ever met the attackers. “The plaintiffs would have us believe that activities like writing a letter to the editor can be part of a conspiracy to violate civil rights,” said SQL member Paul Aronow. In truth, the suit was frivolous and had but one purpose: to stop the people of Farmingville and their allies from speaking out about the importance of enforcing our nation’s immigration laws.
Perhaps the biggest problem the people of Farmingville faced is the government officials who want to ignore the illegal alien problem, whether due to indifference or the influence of powerful special interests – La Raza and businesses that employ the aliens, for example. The police often downplay residents’ complaints of criminal activity among the aliens, local and state politicians say the illegal alien problem is a federal issue, while the politicians in Washington claim it is a local issue. Even the Immigration and Naturalization Service throws up its hands, claiming it lacks the authority and resources to do anything about the problem. Says SQL President Margaret Bianculli, “There are all kinds of horror stories about crime and harassment, but local officials turn a deaf ear.” Moreover, Margaret “can’t understand why the federal government isn’t adequately protecting our borders.” “I become more and more perplexed by the complete stand-down of the people who are supposed to be protecting us,” she adds.
It is not surprising that Margaret Bianculli’s neighbors looked to her to lead their fight against illegal immigration and the problems it has brought to Farmingville: increasing crime, harassment by the day laborers that gather each day by the hundreds in open air “hiring halls,” and the deterioration of the neighborhood that results from dozens of men residing in each “safe house.” Margaret, a high school business teacher in New York City, has always been at the forefront. Upon entering college in 1969, she became one of the first few women on Long Island to enroll in police science courses and ultimately graduated with a degree in the field. At the same time, she became one of the first female lifeguards on the waterways of Long Island. So when Margaret saw that she could not rely on her elected representatives to deal with the illegal alien problem, it was only natural for her to found SQL.
Immigration activists try to vilify Bianculli and SQL
“WHAT PART OF ‘ILLEGAL’ DON’T THEY UNDERSTAND? WE’RE ASKING THEM TO OBEY THE LAWS. WE’RE NOT ASKING THEM TO DO ANYTHING OUTRAGEOUS.”SQL SPOKESMAN RAY WYSOLMIERSKI
Margaret has paid a price for standing up for a cause she believes in. Those on the other side of the debate repeatedly brand her a racist, endangering her relationship with her Hispanic students. She receives death threats at her home. She worries that she could lose the teaching job she loves, since advocates for illegal aliens have lobbied for her removal. And now, the same lobby has used a federal lawsuit to portray her organization’s efforts to enforce the law as a conspiracy to violate the law. Says SQL spokesman Ray Wysolmierski, “What part of ‘illegal’ don’t they understand? We’re asking them to obey the laws. We’re not asking them to do anything outrageous.” Of particular irony was the lawsuit’s allegation that Margaret, Ray, and their neighbors, by speaking out and organizing, are violating the plaintiffs’ “rights to free speech, free assembly and free association.”
Regardless of whether one agrees with SQL’s position on illegal immigration, it is clear that Margaret and her neighbors were acting in the finest American tradition of community activism and free speech. That is why CIR agreed to defend the First Amendment rights of SQL and its members. Accordingly, in December 2001, CIR filed a motion to dismiss the claims against SQL. The motion emphasizes that, even if the attackers were somehow indirectly influenced by SQL’s message, that message is protected by the First Amendment’s guarantee of free speech.
Another CIR victory for free speech
A federal judge reviewed CIR’s motion to dismiss the case, saw the strength of SQL’s right to speek and threw out the suit against them. Whether one agrees with SQL’s ideas about immigration or not, their right to share those ideas should remain uncontroversial. Perez is one more in an impressive string of CIR victories on behalf of citizens groups trying to voice their opinions in the face of legal actions against them.