Immigrants living in Farmers Branch, TX, South Carolina, and Hazleton, PA can breathe a sigh of relief now that states and localities were mandated to scale back on immigration enforcement last week. In three separate decisions, federal appeals courts struck down ordinances that effectively criminalize mere presence in the United States by prohibiting landlords from renting to undocumented immigrants.
The rulings across three states that invalidate intolerant provisions are a warning signal to other localities hoping to take federal immigration enforcement into their own hands. In the last of the three decisions last week, the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit ruled, “We again conclude that both the employment and housing provisions of the Hazleton ordinances are pre-empted by federal immigration law.” All three decisions cite to the federal court 2012 ruling striking down Arizona’s anti-immigrant law, and suggest that the Supreme Court’s reasoning would apply equally to rental bans. But earlier this month, one other federal appeals court upheld a similar Nebraska provision, setting up the question for possible Supreme Court review.
Hazleton was the site of the controversial 2006 Illegal Immigration Relief Act, which would have penalized businesses that hire undocumented immigrants and fine landlords for renting to them. The anti-immigrant ordinances ushered through by one-time Hazleton mayor Lou Barletta (R) was reviewed, upheld, and sent back for reconsideration by a series of court decisions in 2007, 2010, and 2012.
Notably, Barletta, now a Congressman, remained steadfastly unapologetic about Hazleton’s ordinances in an op-ed in the Washington Times on Monday. He also praised two of his proposed House bills that would make life difficult for immigrants.