Hazleton, Pennsylvania in many ways pioneered the trend of sweeping, discriminatory, and impractical state and local immigration enforcement laws.
And, like the recent Arizona law that followed in its ideological footsteps, Hazleton’s law requiring businesses and landlords to act as immigration enforcement officials hasn’t been too popular with the courts.
Today, the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the large part of a lower court ruling that struck down the law, holding that Hazleton was interfering with the federal government’s exclusive responsibility to enforce immigration laws.
In July, a federal judge blocked portions of Arizona’s new draconian anti-immigrant law from taking effect because of similar concerns about the state government trying to take on the federal government’s role.
The question of whose jurisdiction immigration enforcement practices fall under isn’t purely technical. The 3rd Circuit decision offered up the example [PDF] of Hazleton’s requirement that landlords check the immigration status of tenants before renting to them:
Although the federal government does not intend for aliens here unlawfully to be harbored, it has never evidenced an intent for them to go homeless…Common sense, of course, suggests that Hazleton has absolutely no interest in reducing aliens without legal status to homelessness either. No municipality would benefit from forcing any group of residents (“legal” or “illegal”) onto its streets. Rather, it appears plain that the purpose of these housing provisions is to ensure that aliens lacking legal immigration status reside somewhere other than Hazleton. It is this power to effectively prohibit residency based on immigration status that is so clearly within the exclusive domain of the federal government.
Laws like Hazleton’s and Arizona’s make those places as hostile as possible to immigrants both legal and illegal—their ultimate goal isn’t to solve the nation’s immigration challenge, but to be able to ignore