Strike Two for State Immigration Laws

In recent years, states and localities have faced increasing pressure from fear mongers, nativists, and other constituencies to take the immigration law into their own hands. Many of these attempts have been reported to our readers on the MurthyBlog. Although Arizona received far and away the most publicity for its now-infamous anti-immigrant measure – SB 1070, the “Show-me-your-papers” law – several localities passed local ordinances designed to clearly signal illegal immigrants, and anyone who looked like them, that they were unwelcome in town.

One such spot was Hazelton, Pennsylvania, which claims the dubious distinction of having passed its anti-immigrant legislation in 2006, years before Arizona made it fashionable – increasingly and disturbingly fashionable in some quarters, with opportunistic legislators rushing to introduce copycat legislation in their own jurisdictions. According to the Associated Press, the Hazelton law “sought to fine landlords who rent to illegal immigrants and deny business permits to companies that give them jobs.” (See PA Mayor to Take Immigration Law to Supreme Court, by Michael Rubinkam, Associated Press, 10.Sep.2010.)

Having once stolen the spotlight from Hazelton, Arizona again eclipsed the Pennsylvania law when much of SB 1070 was temporarily enjoined at the district court level, shortly before it was to have taken effect last July. The legal fight over SB 1070 goes on, but is unlikely to be resolved anytime soon.

Now, at long last, comes Hazelton’s turn. Last week, after years of legal wrangling, the Third Circuit of the U.S. Court of Appeals ruled that Hazelton’s ordinance unlawfully encroached on the federal domain, reminding Hazelton, and many places like it, that controlling immigration is a federal prerogative, one not subject to local tinkering, or what a Wall Street Journal piece referred to as “DIY immigration reform.”  One hopes that state and local legislators will finally take the hint: immigration is a federal issue – HANDS OFF! One can’t help wondering, though, what Congress will do with the immigration issue next year, if the GOP gets the windfall it expects from the midterm elections. GOP lawmakers may find themselves caught between their populist anti-immigrant rhetoric, and high-rolling business constituencies that rely on immigrant labor. It will be interesting to see whether they can bridge this gap, whenever they finally have the responsibility to rule.

Disclaimer: The information provided here is of a general nature and may not apply to any specific or particular circumstance. It is not to be construed as legal advice nor presumed indefinitely up to date.