Cities and towns with laws aimed at driving out illegal immigrants are gearing up for court fights over enforcement, says USA Today. Places involved include Hazelton, Pa., Riverside, N.J. and Valley Park, Mo. Civil rights and business groups sued after those cities made it illegal to employ or rent housing to illegal immigrants. The lawsuits say the ordinances are discriminatory. The court action puts the communities at the forefront of a national debate over what to do about the estimated 12 million illegal immigrants in the U.S. If the cities prevail, dozens of communities are poised to follow their lead.
More than 30 city councils have passed or are considering measures aimed at curbing illegal immigrants’ access to housing, voting, and jobs. Lawmakers in 33 states have passed 78 bills, most of them imposing restrictions similar to the city measures, says the National Conference of State Legislatures. The laws challenge the U.S. Supreme Court’s holding that immigration policies fall under the authority of the federal government, not that of cities, counties or states. Local and state officials say illegal immigrants are straining the budgets of local schools, hospitals and police. “I am prepared to fight this to the highest court in the country if we have to,” says Hazelton Mayor Lou Barletta.