After seven long years the Latino community in Hazleton, Pennsylvania can finally feel at ease in their own neighborhood. This is because the city can no longer exclude or oppress immigrants. This takes place after a long legal battle in which various civil rights groups successfully defended the rights of the Latino residents.
The United States Supreme Court finally put to rest the issue of Hazleton’s local anti-immigrant ordinance that unconstitutionally restricted immigrants in housing, employment and other commercial interactions. Moving forward, the expectation is that the Supreme Court’s ruling will set a positive example and precedent for other cities and municipalities. The goal is for no other ordinances of this kind to be enacted against immigrants to restrict them or discriminate against them in any way.
Facts of the Hazleton Anti-Immigrant Case
The initial anti-immigrant housing ordinance ratified in Hazleton, PA in 2006 would have prohibited “illegal aliens” from renting housing. Moreover, the ordinance was intended to penalize the town’s citizens and business owners if they interacted in any business with an individual without proper proof or documentation of federal work authorization. Specifically, businesses that refused to comply with the anti-immigration legislation and did not investigate the immigration status of employees and tenants would be fined or denied business permits. Moreover, the proposed ordinance lacked any provision that enabled immigrants to effectively challenge determinations as to their status.
This ordinance never became effective, most likely due to the opposition it received from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the ACLU of Pennsylvania, LatinoJustice PRLDEF and the Community Justice Project.
In 2007, the federal trial court in Scranton, PA permanently invalidated Hazelton’s anti-immigration ordinances. Although the city appealed that decision in 2010, they lost in a federal appeals court. In August, 2012 the Hazleton case revisited an appeals court in light of the Supreme Court’s rulings on two Arizona immigration laws in 2011 and 2012. The court reaffirmed that the Hazleton ordinances should be nullified because they were unconstitutional. Recently, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear the case and the trial court’s ruling stands.
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