IRLI Petitions US Supreme Court for Review in Hazleton Local Ordinances Case


December 10, 2010

IRLI has filed a Petition for Certiorari with the U.S. Supreme Court on behalf of the City of Hazleton. Hazleton Pennsylvania gained international attention when it enacted two ordinances that prohibited business license holders from using unauthorized alien workers and landlords from knowingly renting properties to illegal aliens.

The City was sued by a group of anonymous illegal aliens as well as landlords and businesses catering to unlawful aliens, backed by the ACLU. These plaintiffs seek to nullify the highly popular measure. Hazleton is asking the Court to overturn a ruling by the Third Circuit Court of Appeals that found the Hazleton laws to be preempted due to conflicts with federal authority to enforce immigration laws.

Hazleton asks the Supreme Court to review three questions. First, whether the City was preempted from encouraging employers to use E-verify and suspending the business licenses of those employers that hired unauthorized aliens. Second, whether the City was preempted from passing an ordinance which prohibits harboring illegal aliens by knowingly renting to them. And third, whether knowingly renting an apartment to an illegal alien constitutes harboring under federal immigration laws. Remarkably, the definition of harboring has never been decided by the Supreme Court. Currently at least three distinct definitions are being used by prosecutors in different federal judicial circuits nationwide. In November 2010, Hazleton Mayor Lou Barletta won election to the U.S. House of Representatives in a campaign featuring his sponsorship and defense of these landmark laws.

Hazleton’s Petition was filed on the same day that the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the Chamber of Commerce v. Whiting case involving Arizona’s law which also prohibits the knowing employment of illegal aliens. States have always had the power to enact laws to protect the general welfare of its citizens—most notably in the areas of housing and employment.

The Hazleton and Whiting challenges, brought by a coalition of cheap labor business lobbies and open borders groups, threaten to undermine the federalist nature of our government.

Click here to read Hazleton’s petition. IRLI attorneys led by IRLI Senior Counsel Kris Kobach also advised the City while the local laws were being considered, and during the challenges in federal district court in Scranton, PA as well as before the Third Circuit in Philadelphia.

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