Thursday, July 26, 2007
BREAKING NEWS: JUDGE STRIKES DOWN HAZLETON ORDINANCE
Thursday, 26 July 2007
By WADE MALCOLM
A federal judge has struck down the Illegal Immigration Relief Act, ruling Hazleton's proposed crackdown on landlords and employers doing business with illegal immigrants is unconstitutional.
In a 206-page opinion, U.S. District Judge James M. Munley stated, "Federal law prohibits Hazleton from enforcing any of the provisions of its ordinance" aimed at expelling illegal immigrants.
"Whatever frustrations ... the city of Hazleton may feel about the current state of federal immigration enforcement, the nature of the political system in the United States prohibits the city from enacting ordinances that disrupt a carefully drawn federal statutory scheme," Munley wrote.
The ruling comes about four months after a nine-day trial concluded in Scranton federal court and a little more than a year since city council passed the ordinance punishing businesses that hire and landlords who rent to illegal immigrants. A separate provision making English the official language was written into a different ordinance and dropped from the lawsuit.
A previous court order issued by Munley has put Hazleton's ordinance on hold since November. Today's decision is expected to be appealed to Third Circuit Court in Philadelphia.
Hundreds of the municipalities around the country - and at least two dozen in Northeastern Pennsylvania - have considered or enacted laws mimicking the Hazleton ordinance, believed to have been the first of its kind passed in the country.
Hazleton Mayor Lou Barletta proposed the ordinance in response to the high-profile May 10, 2006, murder of 29-year-old Derek Kichline, allegedly shot in the head by two illegal immigrants. But charges in the case were dropped earlier this month.
While many Hazleton residents applauded Barletta's stance, much of the city's large Latino population - estimated to be about 10,000 and growing - immediately reacted in protest, gathering on the steps of city hall the night the ordinance passed wearing shirts reading, "I'm Hispanic, not a criminal."
The American Civil Liberties Union and other advocacy groups challenged the ordinance in federal court on behalf of several residents and community groups, arguing it would lead to civil rights violations against Latinos and conflict with the federal government's sole authority to regulate immigration.
During the trial in March, Barletta, who was catapulted to nationally prominence when he proposed the ordinance in June 2006, testified that his city is besieged by gangs, graffiti and crime because of illegal immigrants. He acted for the good of all legal residents, he has said.
"I'm disappointed the judge didn't realize this city needs to defend itself," said Barletta, who had not yet seen Munley's opinion this afternoon but was about to meet with his legal team to "digest" the decision.
In his decision, Munley contended that all people must be protected regardless of their legality. The ordinance could harm legal residents of the community as well, he ruled.
"The genius of our Constitution is that it provides rights even to those who evoke the least sympathy from the general public," he wrote. "Hazleton, in its zeal to control the presence of a group deemed undesirable, violated the rights of such people, as well as others within the community."
As he has in the past, Barletta vowed again this afternoon to appeal the case all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.
"I'm not ready to lose," he said. "We're not only fighting for Hazleton. We are fighting for cities across the country." .
Apparently Lou Barletta doesn't want to focus on his duties. Mr. Barletta, just bring together the citizens of that city rather than create confrontation, anger against other ethnicity's. They are great issues and, concerns that are more relevant than just Undocumented Immigration or you just trying to be a populist bigotry personality.
He said he is amuse for the decision.. blah, blah, blah. Hate and emotion do not produce good laws.