Walk outside a Hollywood, Calif., nightclub on any given night of the week and you are bound to come across a street vendor selling delicious-smelling hot dogs and sausages smothered in peppers and onions. The familiar tinkling of a bell attached to the end of a cart as it makes its way down your street lets you know the elote man is on the block. The kind hombre in the cowboy hat walking past the baseball diamonds in the park, pushing a freezer chest on wheels, will happily sell you your favorite ice cream treat for no more than a dollar or two.
Street vendors are a common sight in Los Angeles. For many immigrants, it is a way to make an honest living, but it also exposes them to the risks of being arrested and possibly detained and deported by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents. While the city decriminalized street vending on sidewalks in February 2017, that change did not apply to vendors who operate in the city’s parks. A motion filed by City Council members on Tuesday seeks to rectify that, NBC reports.
Council members Jose Huizar and Mitch O’Farrell introduced the motion that would direct city staff to remove criminal misdemeanor charges for vending in parks and recommend other penalties that would compel compliance without exposing vendors to the threat of a criminal penalty.
A similar motion, passed in February, replaced criminal misdemeanor charges for vending on sidewalks with citations and removed criminal penalties against a person who fails to pay that administrative citation.
“In February, the Los Angeles City Council voted to decriminalize street vending in order to keep our mostly immigrant vendors out of the overreaching aggressive arms of our federal government looking to target otherwise law-abiding immigrants for deportation,” Huizar told NBC. “This motion and another I co-introduced last week help us maintain a consistent stance against the federal government and, more importantly, in support of our immigrant community.”
Donald Trump campaigned in 2016 on a promise to increase deportations of undocumented immigrants, which caused some City Council members to worry that street vendors would end up being targeted for deportation after being cited for vending.
Tuesday’s motion states:
The fear and uncertainty endured by our nation’s undocumented immigrant population due to actions by the current administration is polarizing. The thought that a “chargeable offense,” to a vendor who is selling “elotes” or popsicles could be used under the current administration as just cause for deportation has created real fear among those most vulnerable.
Read more at NBC Los Angeles.