Pa. City Defends Illegal Immigrant Rules

Michael Rubinkam, AP, March 12, 2007

There is no evidence to back up the Hazleton mayor’s claim that illegal immigrants are destroying the quality of life in his city, an ACLU attorney told a judge Monday at the start of the first federal trial on local efforts to curb illegal immigration.

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Hazleton officials last summer passed the city’s Illegal Immigration Relief Act to impose fines on landlords who rent to illegal immigrants and deny business permits to companies that employ them. A companion measure requires tenants to register with City Hall.

Hispanic groups and the ACLU sued, contending the measures are unconstitutional.

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In court papers, Hazleton officials said illegal immigrants have committed at least 47 crimes since last spring, consuming much of the city’s police overtime budget. Illegal immigrants were the subject of one-third of all drug arrests in 2005, and they have driven up the costs of health care and education, the city said.

In response to the ACLU argument, Kobach said Congress had clearly stated its intent that states and municipalities can help the federal government enforce immigration law. He noted that in 1996, Congress asked them to determine the immigration status of anyone seeking public benefits.

The judge barred enforcement of the Hazleton immigration measures pending the outcome of the non-jury trial, which is expected to last two weeks. Dozens of cities and towns around the country have followed Hazleton’s lead.

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