Federal Judge Strikes Down Anti-Immigration Law

A U.S. District Court Judge in Pennsylvania has struck down a City of Hazleton ordinance targeting illegal immigrants:

HAZLETON, Pa. (AP) — A federal judge on Thursday struck down Hazleton’s tough anti-illegal immigration law, ruling unconstitutional a measure that has been copied around the country.

The city’s Illegal Immigration Relief Act sought to impose fines on landlords who rent to illegal immigrants and deny business permits to companies that give them jobs. Another measure would have required tenants to register with City Hall and pay for a rental permit.


In a 206-page opinion, Munley said the act was pre-empted by federal law and would violate due process rights.

”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.

”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,” he added.

On some level, this result is, as James Joyner called it, a no-brainer. The U.S. Constitution clearly gives Congress exclusive control over immigration issues and the Constitution also makes clear that Federal Law is supreme over state or local laws in areas where the Federal Government has jurisdiction.

To put it in simple terms, Hazleton simply doesn’t have the jurisdiction or the authority to do what they tried to do here.

This case will no doubt be appealed to the Third Circuit Court of Appeals and, quite possibly, the Supreme Court, so this isn’t over yet, but I think that Judge Munley got it right.

Originally posted at Below The Beltway

  • Amy

    Equal protection laws apply here also.

    This is a good example of creating laws for the “safety” of the community, while shredding the constitution.

    Your papers please.

  • Carson

    I’m not so sure the overturning of the Hazleton ordinance has anything to do with being unconstitutional. I mean look at whom we are dealing with here. The Federal Government routinely violates the U.S. Constitution.

    It is all about taking what they want.

    When they seized control of California, after the passing of Proposition 187, they claimed it was unconstitutional. Then they had someone park it on their desk to keep it from moving up through the courts.

    We have been dictated to ever since.

    I wish you all luck with your attempt to restore law and order. Be ready to act. You’ve seen recent history unfold before you. We have no excuse like that we forgot!

  • http://kponly.blogspot.com Ryan

    I have a hypothetical question regarding federalism that I would really like someone here to write a post on. This question stems from a Ron Paul video I watched. He was explaining his views on abortion and how we have states handle crimes like murder and so we should treat abortion the same way. My question is: what happens if, hypothetically, a state would make no law against murder. Would we allow the federal government to prosecute murder under the 14th Amendment? After all, doesn’t everyone in our country have the right to live? This is not a question about abortion, because for that you have to define when life begins, but I’m just curious, should we be able to apply the 14th Amendment in such a sense? I asked Congressman Paul’s representative, and here is his answer:

    Under our framework of government, it is the states that handle any act of violence, whether it be murder, rape, assault, etc. Each state prosecutes these actions differently.

    Dr. Paul sees an abortion as an act of violence and should therefore be dealt with accordingly under the powers given to government by the constitution. If we allow the courts to the interpret the 14th amendment in the manner you suggest for abortion, the federal courts will exploit this power and interpret the same justification for other issues.

    Once you compromise on one issue, the federal courts will run away with their new found power.

    Now, like I said, abortion is not the main issue I want to discuss here. I just would like a discussion on where we draw the line as to where the federal government can and can’t step in with regards to acts of violence. Any comments?

  • http://anarchangel.blogspot.com Chris

    No, he didn’t get it right. The city of Hazelton regulations regarding the provisioning of services etc… predicated immigration STATUS, in no way impinge on or violate the precedence of federal law or immigration enforcement.

    This decision is going to be overturned in a heartbeat, and will almost certainly be denied cert if it gets that far.

  • Seymour B.

    When the the US federal government fails to uphold its constitutional duties, what are the people to do? If the people of Hazelton had an referendum and voted to bar illegal immigrants in order to restore ordered liberty, I don’t see how that is unconstitutional. The city is in a state of anarchy since the federal failed in its constitutional duties.

  • R.Hangren

    The Immigration issue is going to stay in the legal arena for a long time to come. There are more and more Houston Immigration Lawyers popping up every day.

  • http://thedailyburkeman1.blogspot.com/ C Bowen

    From a friend:

    “The decision was sound IF you accept the premise that immigration is the purview of the Federal Government.

    According to the Constitution though, naturalization, not immigration, is an enumerated Federal power. Ironically, it was a Supreme Court case (Hines v. Davidowitz) involving the State of Pennsylvania in 1941 that granted the Federal Government the exclusive power over immigration.

    Prior to that case it was a shared power, and prior to that, in the 19th Century, it was known and assumed to be exclusively a State power. In fact, the Constitution of Texas accepted by Congress and required for re-entry into the Union during Reconstruction, specifically mentions a Texas “Bureau of Immigration”.

    States and even Counties issued their own passports for international travel prior to the Civil War.”