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We Won! Appeals Court Finds Anti-Immigrant Law Unconstitutional

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September 9, 2010

Today, the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals found the city of Hazleton, Pennsylvania’s anti-immigrant laws unconstitutional.

In August 2006, the city of Hazleton passed a law that would punish landlords and employers accused of renting to or hiring anyone the city deems an “illegal alien.” We challenged that law in district court and won in 2007, and the city of Hazleton appealed that ruling to the 3rd Circuit.

Hazleton’s law spawned several copycat measures in other places, including Arizona, so the case has attracted very close interest from supporters of such discriminatory laws as well as their opponents. In today’s unanimous opinion, the court stated that it was “required to intervene when states and localities directly undermine the federal objectives embodied in statutes enacted by Congress.” The Hazleton law, the court said, “attempted to usurp authority that the Constitution has placed beyond the vicissitudes of local governments” and “could not possibly be in greater conflict with Congress’s intent” as reflected in federal law.

In a statement today, Omar Jadwat, ACLU Immigrants’ Rights Project staff attorney and one of the attorneys who argued the case, called the decision “a major defeat for the misguided, divisive and expensive anti-immigrant strategy that Hazleton has tried to export to the rest of the country.”

Today’s decision comes on the heels of a recent legal victory against S.B. 1070, the racial profiling law law passed in Arizona this summer, and several cities’ decisions to suspend or abandon housing laws modeled after Hazleton’s.

We hope this decision causes other cities and towns who have considered or adopted laws like Hazleton’s to abandon this unconstitutional and unwise approach.

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