IRLI Hazleton brief: US Supreme Court ruling in AZ v US supports local enforcement ordinances


July 27, 2012

On July 23, 2012 IRLI filed an important legal brief, ordered by the Third Circuit, explaining how the recent Arizona v. United States (SB 1070 decision) impacts the legal arguments in Lozano v. City of Hazleton, the landmark lawsuit challenging local immigration enforcement ordinances. On appeal by IRLI, the U.S. Supreme Court in 2011 vacated a lower ruling against the Pennsylvania city of Hazleton, shortly after its first ruling upholding Arizona’s immigration enforcement laws, in Chamber of Commerce v. Whiting. Access the IRLI letter brief here.

The Arizona decision gave strong support for city and state laws that rely upon communications between the federal and state or local officials regarding immigration status inquiries. First, the Supreme Court noted clear encouragement by Congress for state involvement in sharing immigration status and enforcement data: “Consultation between federal and state officials is an important feature of the immigration system. Congress has made clear that no formal agreement or special training needs to be in place for state officers to ‘communicate with the [Federal Government] regarding the immigration status of any individual. . . .” Arizona v. United States, 183 L. Ed. 2d 351, 376 (2012).

Second, Arizona explained that Congress requires the Federal Government to answer requests for immigration status inquiries made by state and local officers: “Congress has obligated ICE to respond to any request made by state officials for verification of a person’s citizenship or immigration status.” Id. at 376-77 (citing 8 U.S.C. §§ 1373(c); 1226(d)(1)(A)).

Finally, the Supreme Court explained that ICE must respond even if local police interests and DHS agency priorities differ: “[T]he [Arizona] officers must make an in inquiry even in cases where it seems unlikely that the Attorney General would have the alien removed. . . .Congress has done nothing to suggest it is inappropriate to communicate in these situations. Indeed, it has encouraged sharing of information about possible immigration violations.” Id. at 377 (citing 8 U.S.C. § 1357(g)(10)(A)).

The IRLI brief explains that the Hazleton ordinance was built on this doctrine of extensive cooperation and the required federal government response to local immigration status inquiries. Hazleton requires all individuals to submit information when obtaining an occupancy license in the City. After receiving a valid complaint, the City uses that information to verify the immigration status of that individual with the federal government—to which the Federal Government must respond.Oral arguments are scheduled for mid-August in Philadelphia.

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