July 28, 2013
Immigrant Advocates Score Major Legal Wins
While a comprehensive immigration reform waned in the U.S. Congress,
significant developments on the immigration front occurred in the courts
in July. In three back-to-back decisions, federal courts struck down
state or local laws that attempted to regulate housing, employment and
other matters based on a person’s immigration status.
On Friday, July 26, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit rejected
housing and employment ordinances passed in the city of Hazleton,
Pennsylvania, which had been the subject of legal battles pitting
immigrant activists against supporters of the laws since 2006.
“Hazleton was the first locality or state to try to move Latinos out, and the
courts have repeatedly slapped down its effort,” said Juan Cartagena,
president and general counsel of LatinoJustice PRLDEF. “All of the
courts have said the same thing: immigration is the purview of the
federal government. It’s time for Hazleton to stop trying to harass
Latino immigrants out of existence. Let’s leave decisions about global
markets and transnational labor forces to the federal government.”
Three days prior to the Hazleton decision, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the
Fourth Circuit upheld a lower court’s decision that blocked components
of South Carolina’s SB20, an Arizona-like immigration law.
On Monday, July 22, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit ruled
against a 2008 ordinance in Farmers Branch, Texas, that would have
required all would-be renters to supply information about their legal
status and obtain a rental license from a building inspector charged
with judging an applicant’s residency eligibility.
In its decision, the federal court relied on the 2012 U.S. Supreme Court ruling
that tossed out key provisions of Arizona’s SB 1070 as an infringement
on federal authority in immigration matters.
The Farmers Branch ruling, said attorney Omar Jadwat of the American Civil Liberties Union
(ACLU), “will prevent municipal governments from investigating and
discriminating against immigrants and people of color.” The ordinance,
Jadwat said, “now joins many others of its kind that have been
discredited and abandoned to history’s scrapheap through a series of
July’s legal rulings on immigration in three
separate federal court circuits were variously praised by the ACLU,
Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund, the National
Immigration Law Center and the Southern Poverty Law Center, among
“This week’s decisions are a powerful reminder that our
Constitution protects immigrants from harassment and scapegoating by
state and local governments,” the ACLU’s Omar Jadwat added.
Nonetheless, supporters of state and locally-generated immigration regulations and
restrictions weren’t ready to throw in the towel. Hazleton Mayor Joseph Yannuzzi
vowed to continue the legal battle with private donations. Reportedly,
supporters of the ordinance have spent or received more than $500,000 to
litigate the case. Michael Jung, an attorney for Farmers Branch, said
city councilors in the Dallas suburb were expected to discuss their
legal options in August.
Additional sources: cnsnews.com/Associated Press, July 26, 2013. NPR News/ Associated Press, July 23, 2013.
Frontera NorteSur: on-line, U.S.-Mexico border news
Center for Latin American and Border Studies
New Mexico State University
Las Cruces, New Mexico
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