Immigration Law

Judge Voids Hazleton Immigration Law

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In a ruling with national implications, a federal judge in Pennsylvania today struck down a controversial Hazleton municipal ordinance that would have imposed hefty fines on businesses for hiring illegal immigrants and landlords for renting to them.

The ordinance was unconstitutional, ruled U.S. District Judge James M. Munley, because it violated the Supremacy Clause and due-process protections, reports the Allentown, Pa., Morning Call.

“Whatever frustrations … the city of Hazleton may feel about the current state of federal immigration enforcement,” wrote Munley in his opinion, “the nature of the political system in the United States prohibits the city from enacting ordinances that disrupt a carefully drawn federal statutory scheme.”

The city’s mayor, who had attributed several violent crimes to illegal immigrants, says Hazleton will appeal the ruling.

Some 200 municipalities throughout the country have considered or even enacted similar ordinances, and the ruling today may have a “sobering effect” on them, the newspaper reports, although Munley’s opinion would be persuasive rather than authoritative in other cases.

Hazleton, a city of 25,000 in the foothills of the Pocono Mountains in the northeastern portion of central Pennsylvania, was a front-runner in this grassroots movement to enforce immigration law locally. Hazleton introduced its ordinance in June 2006, several residents filed suit over it in August 2006, and the judge issued a temporary restraining order in October that prevented the city from enforcing it.

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