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  1. #1
    Senior Member
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    May 2007

    After Hazleton Ruling, What Would SCOTUS Do?

    July 27, 2007

    After Hazleton Ruling, What Would SCOTUS Do?
    Federal inaction has spurred states and municipalities to forge ahead on matters like global warming and immigration. In April, the Supreme Court seemed to boost efforts by states like California to exceed federal regulations on greenhouse gases. But it's not clear whether the justices would do the same for U.S. towns leading the charge on illegal immigration.

    Yesterday's decision [PDF] by a U.S. District Court judge declaring Hazleton, Pa.'s housing and employment ordinance on illegal immigrants unconstitutional will be appealed, the town's mayor promised. The decision will affect the dozens of U.S. cities and counties weighing similar measures to crack down on illegals.

    Hazleton's first-in-the-nation ordinance required landlords to register with the town and all prospective rentees to submit to background checks on their residency status. Businesses found to be employing illegal immigrants were to lose their license for five years. The ordinance also declared English to be the official language of the town, which refuses to print any information in Spanish.

    Judge James Munley invoked the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986, ruling that only the federal government had jurisdiction over immigration law. That act stipulates: "The provisions of this section preempt any State or local law imposing civil or criminal sanctions (other than through licensing and similar laws) upon those who employ, or recruit or refer for a fee for employment, unauthorized aliens."

    Under federal law, it was already illegal for Hazleton businesses to employ illegal immigrants or for landlords to house them, so the ruling just prohibits the municipal government from imposing its own sanctions for immigration violations. Hazleton had set up a de facto mini-INS to root out illegals; that will probably have to go as well.

    Hazleton had a population of little more than 23,000 as of the 2000 census. Latinos made up about 5 percent of the population.

    But since then, the town has become a magnet for Latino immigrants. The population grew to 31,000 by 2006, city officials said, and the percentage of Latinos surged to 30 percent.

    Uneasy residents were alarmed at the population explosion, complaining that the newcomers were lowering the town's standard of living and straining resources. Last year, the alleged murder of a 29-year-old man by two illegal immigrants appeared to be the final straw.

    Hazleton Mayor Louis Barletta has used violent crimes committed by illegal immigrants as a rallying cry in the town's clampdown. "We're going to appeal [the ruling] all the way to the Supreme Court if we have to," he said today in an interview on MSNBC. "This federal government has failed the American people, and this city is one that's fighting back."

    The case will probably wend its way up to the high court, and Congress' failure to pass an immigration reform bill only adds pressure for the justices to weigh in. It is not at all clear, however, that the court's ruling will favor the states as the ruling in the EPA case did.

    Munley noted that according to federal statutes, the role of determining residency status belongs to the federal government alone. And in enacting the ordinance, Hazleton's government wrongly assumed that "the federal government seeks the removal of all aliens who lack legal status," he added.

    But more and more police and sheriffs departments are taking on immigration enforcement, with the federal government's blessing. The White House and Congress freely admit that the current immigration statutes and enforcement mechanisms are woefully inadequate.

    That said, Hazleton and dozens of towns like it may find a formidable opponent in the Bush administration should the Supreme Court agree to hear the case. Not only do White Houses generally side with the federal government in federalism battles, but this White House in particular has opposed what it calls "vigilante" anti-immigration measures on the local level.

    "Localities do in fact have a federalist responsibility and freedoms when it comes to doing certain types of legislative" actions, White House press secretary Tony Snow said at today's noon briefing. "We still think the best way to deal with the immigration problem is on a comprehensive basis."

    Barletta is an outspoken critic of President Bush and the failed immigration bill, and the White House has hinted in the past that it opposes Hazleton's ordinance. At a campaign stop in Hazleton in 2004, Vice President Dick Cheney didn't mention immigration once.

    The Philadelphia Inquirer reports on Hazleton Latinos' reactions to the ruling, and the North County (California) Times reports on how Escondido officials are now debating a law similar to Hazleton's. "60 Minutes" also has a look at the town and its residents.

    -JANE ROH ... at_wou.php

  2. #2
    Senior Member gofer's Avatar
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    Jan 2006
    States giving in-state-tuition to illegals are breaking federal law, but when it comes to enforcing federal law, they scream it's NOT their responsiblity!

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