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Third Circuit Reconsiders Hazleton Immigration Law

By Robyn Hagan Cain | Last updated on

The Third Circuit Court of Appeals once again considered the Hazleton immigration law this week. Chief Judge Theodore A. McKee, Judge Thomas I. Vanaskie and Senior Judge Richard L. Nygaard heard oral arguments on Wednesday, reports the Times Leader.

Hazelton adopted the Illegal Immigration Relief Act (IIRA) in 2006. The ordinance allowed the city to revoke business licenses for those companies that employed illegal immigrants, and fine landlords that knowingly rented to illegal immigrants. In March 2007, U.S. District Court Judge James Munley found that the IIRA, and a related tenant registration ordinance, were unconstitutional.

The Third Circuit Court of Appeals originally struck the law down in 2010, finding that the employment provisions of the ordinances stood as an obstacle to the accomplishment and execution of the Immigration Reform and Control Act's objective, (and thus are preempted), and that the housing provisions of the ordinances were preempted regulations of immigration, (and both field and conflict preempted), by the Immigration and Nationality Act.

The Supreme Court overturned that decision in 2011, citing a separate decision upholding a similar Arizona employer-sanctions law in Chamber of Commerce v. Whiting.

The ACLU, the ACLU of Pennsylvania, LatinoJustice PRLDEF, the Community Justice Project and the law firm Cozen O'Connor have been challenging the ordinances on behalf of Hazleton residents, landlords and business owners since 2006.

While the Hazleton immigration law was one of the earlier local immigration policies, other cities have since followed suit. One notable example, which has also been subject to appellate scrutiny, is a Farmers Branch, Texas ordinance that mandates citizenship or lawful immigration status as a precondition to renting housing.

The Third Circuit panel did not indicate when it will return a decision.

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