ALLENTOWN, PA - The Supreme Court today ordered a federal appeals court to take a new look at a Pennsylvania city's crackdown on illegal immigrants in light of the high court's recent decision upholding an Arizona employer-sanctions law.
The high court threw out a ruling by the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that prevented the city of Hazleton from enforcing regulations that would deny permits to business that hire illegal immigrants and fine landlords who rent to them.
The measures inspired similar laws around the country, including the one in Arizona that deals only with penalties for employers.
The justices typically order lower courts to re-examine cases in light of a high court decision on a similar topic.
The Philadelphia-based 3rd Circuit ruled in September that Hazleton's Illegal Immigration Relief Act usurped the federal government's exclusive power to regulate immigration.
"It is ... not our job to sit in judgment of whether state and local frustration about federal immigration policy is warranted," wrote Chief Judge Theodore McKee. "We are, however, required to intervene when states and localities directly undermine the federal objectives embodied in statutes enacted by Congress."
Hazleton, a northeastern Pennsylvania city of about 25,000, wants to fine landlords who rent to illegal immigrants and deny business permits to companies that give them jobs. A companion measure requires prospective tenants to register with City Hall and pay for a rental permit.
Former Republican Mayor Lou Barletta pushed the measures in 2006 after two illegal immigrants were charged in a fatal shooting. Barletta, now a freshman congressman, argued that illegal immigrants brought drugs, crime and gangs to the city and overwhelmed police, schools and hospitals.
The laws have never been enforced. Hispanic groups and illegal immigrants sued to overturn the measures, and a federal judge struck them down following a trial in 2007.
Hazleton's act was copied by dozens of municipalities around the nation that believe the federal government hasn't done enough to stop illegal immigration.