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Hazelton: Immigration's New Frontline By: Tom Fitton
FrontPageMagazine.com | Thursday, February 28, 2008

You may recall that in July of 2007, a federal judge ruled against two City of Hazleton, PA, ordinances dealing with the employment and harboring of illegal aliens. But that was not the end of the story.  The lawsuit is now on appeal. And, on February 14, 2008, we filed an amicus curiae brief with the United States Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit in support of Hazleton. (By the way, want to take a guess at which organization is leading the legal campaign against Hazleton? You guessed it. The American Civil Liberties Union [ACLU].)

Here’s our argument in a nutshell: “…The regulation of the landlord-tenant and employment relationships – are well within the traditional police and licensing powers of the City. Because the ordinances do not seek specifically to regulate immigration, they are not preempted by federal immigration law,” Judicial Watch argued in its brief. “In fact, the ordinances work in harmony with federal law and are entirely consistent with purposes set forth by Congress in enacting legislation concerning immigration. They also fit comfortably within well-established case law authorizing local government actions.” (You can read the rest here.)

By way of review, Hazleton’s Ordinance 2006-13, otherwise known as the Rental Registration Ordinance, requires a person who intends to rent a “dwelling unit” in the City of Hazleton to submit an application and obtain an occupancy permit. (To obtain such a permit an applicant must provide “proper identification showing proof of legal citizenship and/or residency.”) Ordinance 2006-18, otherwise known as the Illegal Immigration Relief Act, prohibits any business entity in the City of Hazleton that holds a business permit from employing an illegal alien. This ordinance also prohibits any person or business entity owning a dwelling unit in Hazleton from harboring an illegal alien in that unit.

The Supreme Court has a handy three-part test to determine whether or not state immigration laws violate the Supremacy Clause, which gives precedence to federal laws over state laws. JW maintains these ordinances are completely consistent with the Constitution.

First, the Hazleton statutes do not attempt to regulate immigration, which is the exclusive domain of the federal government, but instead rely upon the immigration standards established by federal law. Second, the Hazleton statutes regulate areas (tenant and employment relationships) traditionally governed by state governments, not the federal government. And finally, the Hazleton statutes do not burden or conflict with the “full purposes and objectives of Congress,” but rather seek to facilitate the objectives established by Congress with the enactment of federal immigration laws.

(Other federal courts in Arizona and Missouri recently upheld local statutes substantially similar to Hazleton’s statutes.)

The clear intent of federal immigration law is to prevent illegal aliens from coming here and staying here. The Hazleton statutes are completely consistent with the objectives of Congress. Let’s hope the appellate court agrees with JW and does the right thing by overturning the lower court’s flawed decision.

(I would again encourage you to read our lawyers’ full brief, as it not only provides an excellent overview of important aspects of immigration law, but presents strong legal -- and common sense -- arguments for the conservative principle of judicial restraint.)

Tom Fitton is president of Judicial Watch.

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