NOVEMBER 01, 2006
Claiming it would cause "irreparable harm" to residents, a federal judge has blocked an eastern Pennsylvania city’s law targeting illegal immigrants just hours before it was to go in effect.
Earlier this year, officials in Hazelton Pennsylvania passed the tough illegal immigration measure that revokes the business license of companies that employ illegal immigrants, imposes fines on landlords who rent to them and makes English the city’s official language.
A series of high-profile crimes committed by illegal immigrants led the city’s mayor to propose the ordinance, known as the Illegal Immigration Relief Act, which was approved 4-1 by the city’s council.
Not surprisingly, several immigrant rights groups challenged the law in court and claimed that its main goal was to terrify immigrants, especially Latinos. A Pennsylvania federal judge, James Munley, evidently agreed and issued a 13-page order blocking the law.
Judge Munley cited a few peculiar examples to support his reasoning that the law would cause irreparable harm to the city’s 31,000 residents, saying that they risk housing, livelihood and education if the ordinance is enforced. He listed as an example a female plaintiff who risks being evicted from her apartment along with her two young children although she is not an "illegal alien."
The judge also mentions a couple that he believes has suffered and will continue suffering great loss of business in their store and restaurant because the majority of their customers are Latinos, many of them probably illegal immigrants.
About a third of Hazelton’s residents are immigrants from Central America and about a quarter of the town’s immigrant population is in the U.S. illegally. Pennsylvania crime reports reveal that crimes committed by Hispanics have increased 162% since 2000. During that same period, Hazelton’s Hispanic population increased nearly 700%.
In crafting the law, Hazelton officials cited statistics that support how illegal immigrants have brought an increase in drugs, crime and gangs to the city. Yet the judge blocking the law claims the city offers nothing concrete, only "vague generalizations about the crime allegedly caused by illegal immigrants." One incensed blogger writes: The key word is ”illegal,” judge. You are, therefore, guilty of misfeasance, an impeachable offense.
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