MAY 07, 2007
Cities across the nation have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars defending legal challenges to laws aimed at curbing illegal immigration and some have abandoned their own measures to avoid costly litigation.
Frustrated that the federal government is not doing its job when it comes to enforcing immigration laws, more than 90 cities or counties nationwide have proposed or enacted laws to make up for the negligence. They include ordinances prohibiting landlords from renting to illegal immigrants, punishing businesses that employ them and training local police to enforce immigration laws.
Many of the local ordinances have been legally challenged by so-called civil rights groups, however, and the cost to U.S. taxpayers has been exorbitant. Lawsuits have been filed against Valley Park Missouri, Riverside New Jersey, Farmers Branch Texas and Hazleton, Pennsylvania to name a few.
The threat of legal costs forced one California city to abandon legislation that would punish landlords who rent to illegal immigrants. The city, Escondido, spent about $200,000 to fight a lawsuit challenging the ordinance and abandoned it all together after a federal judge issued a temporary restraining order against it last November.
The judge, John Houston, criticized city leaders and said there was serious concerns about the law’s constitutionality, the harm it could cause tenants and landlords and even the city’s ability to work with the federal government to verify an alien’s status in the United States.
Officials in Farmers Branch, a Dallas suburb, continue to pay dearly for their law banning landlords from renting to illegal aliens. Four separate lawsuits have been filed against the city which has already spent more than a quarter of a million dollars to defend the ordinance. One Farmers Branch official said the legal bills will continue rising but they will never surpass the cost of illegal immigrants living in the municipality.
Hazleton Pennsylvania has received $266,000 in private donations to help with the astronomical legal bills to defend its laws designed to curb illegal immigration. A lawsuit claims the ordinance violates residents’ constitutional rights as well as state and federal housing laws. The case actually went to trial in March and a federal judge should issue a ruling by the end of this year.\
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