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US cities offer very different ways
31 May 2007: Illegal Immigration has become one of the United States’ most difficult social and economic problems. More than 12 million ‘undocumented immigrants’ mostly from Mexico are now estimated to be in the US. American cities have been dealing with this reality for years.
San Francisco's former mayor Gavin Newsome condemned raids on illegal immigrants
News update: 29 July 2007
US court rules against anti-immigrant decrees
A US federal judge has struck down several anti-immigrant ordinances passed by the city of Hazleton, Pennsylvania. This "Illegal Immigration Relief Act" imposed strict penalties on landlords and employers if they rented to or hired illegal immigrants. Hazleton mayor Lou Barletta said his city would not back down.
US District Court Judge James Munley has ruled that it is unconstitutional for the city of Hazleton to impose fines on businesses that hire illegal immigrants and landlords who rent to them. Hazleton passed the "Illegal Immigration Relief Act" last July but never implemented it because of a court injunction.
Dozens of towns and cities across the United States have already copied Hazleton's Act for their action to deal with illegal immigrants.
In his 200-page opinion, Judge Munley says federal law prohibits the city from enforcing any provisions of its ordinances. Hazleton's Mayor Lou Barletta says he plans to appeal the ruling.
"I am very disappointed that Judge Munley has ruled against all legal residents of the city of Hazleton. This fight is far from over," he said. "I have said it many times before that Hazleton is not going to back down."
Hazleton passed the immigration act after city officials blamed a recent rise in illegal immigration for increasing crime and overwhelming social services in the city of 30,000. Hispanic and civil rights groups sued the city. They said the measures were racist and divisive.
However, the court ruled that a city cannot enact any ordinances dealing with illegal immigration because they conflict with what is commonly called the supremacy clause of the US Constitution, which makes federal law the supreme law of the land.
Agapito Lopez with the Hazleton Latino Organization says this ruling sends a clear message to the dozens of other communities in the United States considering similar laws.
"From [the city of] Farmers Branch in Texas to Florida, there is about 120 cities that have been waiting to see if they can enact their own immigration laws," he said. "This is something that pertains to the Congress." An estimated 12 million immigrants are living in the United States without documentation. (Report by Sean Maroney, VoA)