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Court Overturns Hazletown, Pa., Anti-Immigration Law

A federal appeals court struck down today a Hazleton, Pa., ordinance that criminalized anyone who rented to or hired an illegal immigrant. The ordinance was a precursor to Arizona’s SB 1070 immigration law and other copy-cat anti-immigration legislation, and may signal what is to come for laws accused of preempting federal immigration authority.

Hazleton passed its ordinance in 2006. It was considered one of the toughest laws against illegal immigration at the time. The ACLU, along with other rights groups, filed a suit on behalf of the city’s landowners, business owners and residents, and the law was found unconstitutional by a federal court in 2007. In his decision, Judge James M. Munley wrote that the 14th Amendment applies to everyone in the U.S., not just legal residents.

The city of Hazleton appealed that ruling to the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals, which today agreed the city’s law was unconstitutional because it preempts federal immigration law:

Deciding which aliens may live in the United States has always been the prerogative of the federal government…To be meaningful, the federal government’s exclusive control over residence in this country must extend to any political subdivision. Again, it is not only Hazleton’s ordinance that we must consider. If Hazleton can regulate as it has here, then so could every other state or locality.

Still, future cases on anti-immigration laws are up in the air, The Los Angeles Times reported. The Supreme Court will hear an Arizona case in December to determine whether states can strip business licenses from companies that knowingly hire illegal immigrants. The Obama administration and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce have pushed for the court to strike down the law, which was upheld by an appeals court because states traditionally control business licensing.

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