Hazelton’s Immigration Law

A court battle over a 2006 law in Hazleton City continues. In 2006, the Illegal Immigration Relief Act was passed but now the law – as well as the city’s rental registration ordinance — are under fire and attorneys are considering related legal battles from Farmers Branch, Texas and from Arizona as they consider the case before a federal appeals court. The U.S. Supreme Court ordered the appeals court to take a new look at the law. The 2006 law essentially prevents landlords from renting to undocumented immigrants and prevents employers from hiring undocumented immigrants. The law was never enforced.

In the case, Lozano, et al. v. City of Hazleton, plaintiffs include the Hazleton Hispanic Business Association, Pedro Lozano, the Pennsylvania Statewide Latino Coalition, and Casa Dominicana of Hazleton Inc. Plaintiffs and their attorneys state that the laws are harmful and exist only to push certain people from the city. Plaintiffs have stated that the law is unconstitutional. They are seeking to have the law suspended and are seeking to have over $2 million in legal fees covered by the city if they win.

However, since the 2006 law took effect other immigration laws have been upheld and that could affect the Hazleton case. For example, the Supreme Court struck down parts of Arizona’s tough immigration law but upheld the idea that authorities could check immigration status of those they arrested. Some experts believe that the decision may mean that Hazleton enjoys an advantage in trying to uphold its own immigration law.

Both sides of the debate are confident moving forward. The city feels that the upholding of immigration laws in Arizona and Texas improves the city’s chances for success. Attorneys for the city have also pointed out that Hazleton’s rental registration ordinance requires both citizens and noncitizens to register with landlords and provide information about their status. Attorneys for the plaintiffs have stated in interviews that the law is not constitutional in that it bars specific people from living in certain parts of the state. They also noted that the city’s rental registration ordinance requires only noncitizens to indicate their legal status in the country and only noncitizens can have some of their information sent to the federal government. According to the attorneys, this indicates that the ordinance has to do with alien registration law, a federal domain.

Hazleton is not the only community mulling over immigration laws in the wake of the Supreme Court decision regarding Arizona’s immigration laws. Many communities and states face their own legal battles regarding laws designed to address the issue of undocumented immigration.