MARCH 14, 2007
The nation’s first court ruling that permanently blocks city ordinances to curb illegal immigration came from a Missouri judge, who said a St. Louis suburb cannot enforce its new laws because they contradict state laws.
Valley Park officials unanimously passed legislation last July to rid their little city of about 6,500 residents of the crime, school overcrowding and destruction of neighborhoods they attributed to illegal immigrants. The ordinance makes it illegal for landlords to rent to illegal immigrants and fines businesses that hire them.
But a state judge named Barbara Wallace, who had previously issued a temporary restraining order to block the ordinance, ruled this week that that it can never be enforced because it violates Missouri law. In her ruling, Judge Wallace wrote that state law requires a landlord to give 30 days notice of eviction and requires a landlord to use “judicial process” before forcing any eviction. She added that a city of Valley Park’s size cannot levy such damaging penalties against businesses.
Illustrating that perhaps this judge was desperately grasping for a reason to ban this law, is a comment she made at last September’s hearing when she issued the temporary block. Judge Wallace actually said that she was concerned with some of the wording in the law, specifically with the fact that it does not define the term “illegal immigrant.”
Valley Park’s laws were modeled after those in Hazleton Pennsylvania, which is currently involved in the nation’s first federal trial to decide whether local governments can act to curb illegal immigration. In that bench trial, Latino rights groups are battling city officials who say illegal immigrants have destroyed their city by committing dozens of violent crimes and drug-related offenses.
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