Lozano v. Hazleton
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit in July 2013 rejected Hazleton, Pennsylania’s anti-immigrant housing and employment ordinances, confirming that the laws, which have been continuously blocked under earlier federal court rulings, are unconstitutional and should never go into effect. The ruling came in a lawsuit filed by the ACLU of Pennsylvania, the ACLU Immigrants' Rights Project, the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund, Cozen O'Connor, the Community Justice Project, and several local attorneys.
Under the Hazleton legislation, businesses that refuse to comply with the laws and investigate the immigration status of employees and tenants would be fined or denied business permits. The law lacks any provision enabling targets of these investigations to effectively challenge determinations as to their status. The ordinances were slated to go into effect November 1, 2006. The city of Hazleton subsequently passed several new ordinances meant to replace the first set of ordinances, which the court also prevented from going into effect pending a full determination of their validity.
Without citing any evidence, Hazleton officials have blamed many of the town's ills, including crime and economic burdens, on undocumented immigrants. Supporters of the law have stated that their goal is to drive so-called "illegal aliens" out of town. Many Hispanics, including legal U.S. residents, have already left Hazleton and Hispanic-owned businesses have had to close down according to business association estimates because of the hostile environment that developed against them and their clientele.
At a two-week trial in March, 2007, the plaintiffs presented evidence showing that Hazleton’s attempt to scapegoat immigrants is based on distorted facts and propaganda, not reality. In truth, Hazleton’s finances have improved since the latest wave of immigration began, and undocumented immigrants are involved in crime at a lower rate than other groups.
In papers filed with the court, the plaintiffs also argue that the ordinances violate the Constitution's Supremacy Clause, overriding federal law and the exclusive federal power over immigration, in addition to violating due process and equal protection rights.
On July 26, 2007, District Court Judge James M. Munley ruled the Hazleton ordinances unconstitutional, and prohibited the town of Hazleton from enforcing them. The town of Hazleton appealed that decision to the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals.
On October 30, 2008, the 3rd Circuit heard oral arguments in that appeal. On September 9, 2010, in a unanimous opinion, the 3rd Circuit also ruled the ordinances unconstitutional.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit in July 2013 rejected Hazleton, Pennsylania’s anti-immigrant housing and employment ordinances, confirming that the laws, which have been continuously blocked under earlier federal court rulings, are unconstitutional and should never go into effect.