U.S. Supreme Court Lets Stand Ruling Finding Local Immigration Laws Unenforceable13 Mar 2014
The U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear appeals filed by towns in Texas and Pennsylvania, regarding their attempts to locally enforce certain U.S. immigration laws. This means that the earlier decisions by federal appellate courts striking down the towns’ laws will stand.
Local Efforts to Regulate and Enforce Federal Immigration Laws
The towns of Hazelton, Pennsylvania and Farmer’s Branch, Texas sought to take immigration enforcement into their own hands, out of frustration with the perceived lack of adequate enforcement by the federal government. The laws in question would have prohibited a person who lacked lawful status in the United States from renting property, such as an apartment, in those towns. The Hazelton also law would have instituted local-level penalties on anyone who knowingly employed an undocumented worker.
These laws were successfully challenged as being in conflict with federal law in City of Farmers Branch v. Villas at Parkside Partners and City of Hazleton v. Lozano, with the courts essentially finding that the federal authority over immigration law precludes these types of local regulation and enforcement efforts. This concept, known as the doctrine of preemption, is discussed in the MurthyDotCom NewsBrief, U.S. Supreme Court Strikes Down Portions of AZ immigration Law (29.Jun.2012).
Supreme Court’s Refusal to Hear Case Leaves Appeals Decisions Intact
The U.S. Supreme Court, which is the highest federal court in the United States, declines to hear the vast majority of cases that are submitted for review. When the court passes on a case, the previous court’s decision typically stands. In this situation, because the respective appellate courts, in deciding the City of Farmers Branch and City of Hazleton cases, struck down the laws, the Supreme Court’s decision means the laws remain unenforceable.
Conclusion: Immigration Law Remains in the Hands of the Federal Government
The federal courts appear to be highly skeptical of states and local jurisdictions that pass laws related to immigration. For the time being, it seems immigration law will remain almost exclusively based on federal law. The Murthy Law Firm will continue to closely track any new developments that potentially may impact foreign nationals in the United States.
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