ACLU Asks Court to Reject Hazleton, PA’s Attempt to Revive its Unconstitutional Anti-Immigrant Ordinances

August 15, 2012 3:57 pm

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City’s Anti-Immigrant Laws Promote Discrimination and Have Never Been Upheld by Any Court

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PHILADELPHIA – Attorneys from the American Civil Liberties Union and other civil rights groups asked the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit today to uphold earlier rulings blocking the city of Hazleton’s anti-immigrant law.

“Hazleton’s local ordinances, which sought to legislate hostility towards immigrants, have repeatedly failed the constitutional test since they were passed in 2006,” said Omar Jadwat, senior staff attorney with the ACLU Immigrants’ Rights Project, who presented arguments this morning on behalf of the plaintiffs. “We hope that this will be the final chapter in the city’s misguided quest to scapegoat its own residents, and a lesson for the cities and states that have followed Hazleton down this unjustifiable path.”

Hazleton’s anti-immigrant housing and employment ordinances were the first of several discriminatory state and local laws that target immigrant communities and invite racial profiling against Latinos and anyone who appears or sounds “foreign.”

The ACLU, the ACLU of Pennsylvania, LatinoJustice PRLDEF, the Community Justice Project and the law firm Cozen O’Connor have been challenging the ordinances on behalf of Hazleton residents, landlords and business owners since the first ordinance was enacted in August 2006.

Following a two-week trial, the federal trial court in Scranton permanently struck down the ordinances in 2007. The city appealed that decision, and lost again in the federal appeals court in 2010. The case is now back before the appeals court in light of the U.S. Supreme Court’s rulings on two Arizona immigration laws in 2011 and 2012. The civil rights groups are arguing that those cases, particularly the June 26 decision in Arizona v. United States, confirm that the judgment finding the Hazleton ordinances unconstitutional is correct, and actually strengthen their case.

Hazleton’s ordinances have been opposed by many civil rights, religious, labor and business organizations, as well as state and local governments. These groups have filed friend-of-the-court briefs arguing that the ordinances violate federal authority to regulate immigration and lead to inconsistent and unfair punishment for employers and landlords.

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