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Legality of Anti-Immigrant Laws Unclear

Posted Aug 28, 2007 12:23 PM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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Anti-immigrant laws passed by states and municipalities are likely to face court challenges and an uncertain future.

It’s unclear whether local and state laws that attempt to regulate illegal immigration will pass legal muster, the Washington Post reports. There are few court rulings because few lawmakers acted before now.

This year, state legislatures passed more than 170 immigrant-related laws and municipalities considered 100 immigrant ordinances.

Some of the laws seek to reduce the number of illegal immigrants by cutting off their public benefits, by penalizing employers who hire them and landlords who rent to them, and by authorizing police to help enforce immigration laws.

Jan Ting, a Temple University law professor, told the newspaper there is a “complex overlay of statutes and regulations and court cases” regarding illegal immigration. "There could not be an area of law that is less clear than this, I think," she said. Last month, a federal judge struck down a law in Hazleton, Pa., that denies business permits to employers who hire illegal aliens and fines landlords who rent to them. Judge James Munley said the law violates due process rights and is pre-empted by federal laws.

“The nature of the political system in the United States prohibits the city from enacting ordinances that disrupt a carefully drawn federal statutory scheme," Munley wrote.

Legal experts told the Post the ruling could be reversed on appeal.

(Updated 12:50 p.m. CST to correct the number of immigrant-related laws passed.)

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