A Maryland orchard and police unconstitutionally prevented a nonprofit from informing migrant workers about their rights and social services, legal aides claim in a federal complaint.
The Legal Aid Bureau Inc, which also goes by Maryland Legal Aid, says its employees make a point of reaching out to migrant and seasonal agricultural workers at least once a year to discuss minimum wage and other rights noncitizens might not know about.
With seasonal workers often living in employer-controlled housing, Legal Aid might be their only access to free legal advice concerning overtime, safe housing, workplace health and safety, and social services, according to the April 20 complaint.
Legal Aid and one of its attorneys, Nohora Rivero, say they ran into an obstacle this past summer, however, while trying to visit Fruits and Vegetables by Lewis Orchard, better known as Lewis Orchards, in Dickerson.
When Rivero and a summer clerk visited the Lewis Orchards on Aug. 18 to speak with its 12 noncitizen workers, farm owners Linda and Robert Lewis "ordered the Legal Aid employees to leave," according to the complaint.
"Linda Lewis immediately called the Montgomery County Police Department, which dispatched Officer Kettering to the scene," the complaint states.
In addition to the Lewises and their farm, Legal Aid's lawsuit names Montgomery County as a defendant, plus Police Chief J. Thomas Manger and Officer Alexander Kettering.