Federal Judge Rules That Local Governments Can Suspend Business Licenses for Hiring Illegal Aliens

Press Releases

February 1, 2008

In an unambiguous 57-page decision handed down on January 31, U.S. District Judge E. Richard Webber ruled that local governments have a right to take action against illegal immigration by suspending or denying business licenses to employers who knowingly hire illegal aliens. Judge Webber granted the City of Valley Park, Missouri’s, request for summary judgment in dismissing a case seeking to prevent the city from implementing local ordinances meant to crack down on businesses that employ illegal aliens. His ruling rejected every one of the arguments made by the plaintiffs in this suit.

The Immigration Reform Law Institute (IRLI), a Washington, D.C.-based public interest law firm representing citizens in immigration-related matters, worked closely with the City of Valley Park in drafting ordinances that were approved in February 2007, and provided legal representation to the city in defending the ordinances against the suit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF) on behalf of a few business owners and anonymous illegal immigrants.

“Judge Webber’s ruling represents an across-the-board victory for the people of Valley Park, and for the principle that local communities have a legal right to discourage illegal immigration by denying business licenses to companies that employ illegal workers,” stated Prof. Kris Kobach, lead counsel for Valley Park and of counsel with IRLI.

In his precedent setting decision, Judge Webber ruled that carefully crafted ordinances, such as the one enacted in Valley Park, a St. Louis suburb, are not preempted by the federal government’s exclusive right to regulate immigration. Rather such ordinances constitute the normal function of local governments to regulate the terms under which business may be conducted in their jurisdiction, and that federal laws prohibiting the employment of illegal aliens encourage local governments to act in this manner.

“The Valley Park decision is a clear green light for other cities and states to enact similar laws,” declared Michael Hethmon, general counsel for IRLI. “Point by point, Judge Webber’s decision deconstructs and dismisses each of the arguments that opponents of immigration enforcement have made in this and other cases around the country. As a result of this decision we expect to see many more communities enact common sense ordinances, confident that the law is on their side.”

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