A federal judge has declared unconstitutional Hazleton, Pa.’s ordinance designed to crack down on undocumented aliens, the Philadelphia Inquirer reports. The broadly worded ruling may freeze attempts by scores of municipalities to enact their own immigration policy. U.S. District Judge James Munley of Scranton said the first-of-its-kind ordinance, which sought to penalize businesses that hire illegal immigrants and landlords who rent to them, was flawed because immigration policy is the purview strictly of the federal government. Munley said Hazleton’s action was preempted by federal law and violated the plaintiffs’ due-process rights.
The American Civil Liberties Union said the ruling sent a “clear message” to scores of other municipalities with laws on the books – and others considering them – that such ordinances overstepped jurisdictional bounds. More than 100 municipalities have passed similar ordinances. Lou Barletta, the popular mayor of Hazleton, a city of 30,000 90 miles northwest of Philadelphia, said the ruling would be appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. Barletta and other officials blamed the immigrants for rising crime and a declining economy. He said that after watching the quality of life in his city erode, he took action when two illegal immigrants were charged in the fatal shooting of a pedestrian.