Nation Awaits Federal Court Of Appeals Decision On Hazleton Anti-Immigrant Law
By H. Nelson Goodson
El Conquistador Newspaper
3206 W. National Ave.
Milwaukee, Wisconsin 53215
November 24, 2008
Pennsylvania -The 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals began hearing the landmark case of Lozano vs. Hazleton on October 30th in Philadelphia. The case involved Hazleton's Illegal Immigration Relief Act. Last year in July, U.S. District Judge James Munley ruled the ordinance was unconstitutional. The ordinance sought to impose fines on landlords who rent to illegal immigrants and deny business permits to companies that give them jobs. It was considered as one of the most harshest City ordinances against undocumented immigrants in the United States.
Judge Munley concluded in his 206 page opinion, “Whatever frustrations officials of 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. 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 United States Supreme Court has consistently interpreted [the 14th Amendment] to apply to all people present in the United States, whether they were born here, immigrated here through legal means, or violated federal law to enter the country,” concluded Judge Munley.
Other cities like Green Bay, Wisconsin, and in Prince Williams County, Virginia, have also enacted similar ordinances and are now waiting for a ruling in the appellate court. The Hazleton ruling has set a precedent. If the appellate court upholds Judge Munley’s ruling, Hazleton’s case could end up in the U.S. Supreme Court.
The City of Hazleton filed an appeal after lawyers for the plaintiffs had successfully sued Hazleton and were seeking at least $2.3 million in legal fees. Hazleton currently operates on a yearly budget of $7.9 million. So far, Hazleton reported spending $200,000 in defending the case.
Hazleton Mayor Lou Barletta who recently ran as a Republican in the 11th Congressional District in Pennsylvania lost his bid to incumbent Democrat Paul Kanjorski. Barletta blamed President-elect Barack Obama’s landslide victory and the newly registered Latino voters in the congressional district for the lost. Barletta had solicited and received $400,000 in donations from supporters throughout the country to help finance the appeal. Although, this case could very well bankrupt the city.
The Hazleton Illegal Immigration Relief Act lawsuit was filed in 2006 by Pedro Lozano, Humberto Hernandez,
Rosa Lechuga, Jose Luis Lechuga, John Doe 1, John Doe 3, John Doe 5, John Doe 7, Casa Dominica of Hazleton, Hazleton Hispanic Business Association, the American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of Pennsylvania, the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund, the Community Justice Project and the law firm of Cozen O’Connor.
Friend-of-the-court briefs opposing the Hazleton law have been filed by numerous civil rights, religious, labor and business organizations, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the labor union coalition Change to Win, the American Jewish Committee, Capuchin Franciscan Friars, Lutheran Children and Family Services, the Friends Committee on National Legislation, Legal Momentum, the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, the Southern Poverty Law Center, the Asian Pacific American Legal Center, the Anti-Defamation League and the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund.
Attorneys on the appellate court case include Omar Jadwat, Lucas Guttentag and Jennifer Chang Newell of the ACLU Immigrants' Rights Project; Walczak and Mary Catherine Roper from the ACLU of Pennsylvania; Shamaine Daniels of the Community Justice Project; Foster Maer and Ghita Schwarz of LatinoJustice PRLDEF; and Thomas G. Wilkinson and Ilan Rosenberg of Cozen O'Connor.