Imagined Justice: The Disconnect between Legal Protections and Administrative Enforcement of Day Laborer Rights in New Mexico

Authors: Kevin Raleigh*, University of Cincinnati, Colleen McTague, Niehoff Urban Design Studio, Chad Kinsella, Ball State University
Topics: Political Geography
Keywords: legal geography, day labor, administrative enforcement, neoliberalism
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/11/2018
Start / End Time: 3:20 PM / 5:00 PM
Room: Studio 10, Marriott, 2nd Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


In 2005, New Mexico became the fifth and most recent state to pass a specific set of laws for the protection of day labor workers, an increasing sector of the American labor pool. This set of laws – known as the Day Laborer Act (DLA) – has noteworthy timing in that New Mexico was the first state enacting such laws after the National Employment Law Project (NELP) had prepared and distributed guidelines to aid states in the writing of state-scale legislation designed to protect day laborer rights. However, there has never been a claim of New Mexico’s day laborer laws being violated, and there is no record that any provisions of the DLA have necessitated enforcement. Legal geography provides methodologies of conversational analysis and impact analysis to provide guidance in (1) examining the spatial content of day laborer laws; (2) exploring what the laws achieve and what they prevent; and (3) ascertaining the degree of disconnect between intent and actuality of these laws. In so doing, this research provides an understanding of legislation connecting day laborer rights with practices of day labor service agencies in New Mexico, and bridges theories of legal geography to neoliberalism as they apply to contingent labor. These discoveries demonstrate a need for a greater awareness of space and scale in legal development and administrative enforcement, particularly in providing substantive protection for day laborers and other marginalized workers who have remained subjected to unfairness in the labor market and abuses in the workplace.

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