Illegal immigration law is voided in Pennsylvania town

According to, U.S. District Judge James Munley voided the Illegal Immigration Relief Act, a tough immigration law that had been established in Hazleton, Pa. The law proposed fining landlords who rent to illegal immigrants and punishing companies that give jobs to illegal immigrants by denying business permits.

The judge struck down the law based on the results of a trial in March and declared the law unconstitutional.

"This decision should be a blaring red stoplight for local officials thinking of copying Hazleton's misguided and unconstitutional law," says Witold J. Walczak, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania, which represented the plaintiffs.

Hispanic immigrants have flocked to Hazleton during the past several years, and it is estimated the city’s illegal immigrant population is between 1,500 and 3,400.

The law came about after two illegal immigrants were charged in a fatal shooting in Hazleton. The city's mayor, Lou Barletta, said illegal immigrants brought drugs, crime and gangs to Hazleton and pushed for the law.

Immigrant groups responded with a lawsuit, arguing it is in the federal government's power to regulate immigration, and the city law violates the state and federal housing law and takes away residents' constitutional rights to equal protection and due process.

"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 in a 206-page opinion. "Even if federal law did not conflict with Hazleton's measures, the city could not enact an ordinance that violates rights the Constitution guarantees to every person in the United States, whether legal resident or not."

The city is expected to appeal.

Date : 7/30/2007