Friday, April 22, 2016

Legal Aid files suit against Montgomery Co. over no-trespass order

Attorney, law clerk were barred from visiting migrant farmworkers

Maryland Legal Aid has filed a federal lawsuit against Montgomery County challenging the constitutionality of a no-trespass order issued by county police to Legal Aid employees who attempted to visit migrant farmworkers at a local farm.
Nohora Rivero, a Legal Aid attorney and plaintiff in the suit, attempted to visit employees of Lewis Orchards in Dickerson with a summer law clerk on Aug. 18 to inform the workers about their rights and refer them to legal and other social service providers, according to the lawsuit, filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Greenbelt.
But the farm’s owners confronted Rivero and Spencer Evans, ordering them to leave, the suit states. The owners then called the county police, and an officer who was dispatched to the farm also told them to leave the property despite being shown a copy of a Maryland attorney general’s opinion affirming Legal Aid’s right to visit the workers, the suit states.
The officer, Alexander Kettering, issued no-trespass warnings to the Legal Aid employees, barring them from returning to the property for one year, the suit states...

...Lewis Orchards employs 12 migrant farmworkers from Mexico, who have work visas for seasonal agricultural work, according to the lawsuit. The workers depend on their employer for transportation back to their home country.
On Aug. 18, Rivero and Evans planned to speak with the workers about the legal services available to them and to distribute brochures about workers’ rights, the Affordable Care Act and complying with U.S. tax laws, the suit states. They spoke with workers at one migrant camp at the farm, who told them they were required to work overtime but were not paid at a time-and-a-half rate, a labor law violation.
“If you don’t know your rights, you cannot fight for your rights,” Rivero said. “It is very important for the farm workers to see us and others that want to see them.”...

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