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Advocacy groups mount first challenge against city illegal immigration law

[JURIST] The American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania (ACLU) and the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund (PRLDEF) [advocacy websites] on Tuesday sued the city of Hazleton, Pennsylvania [ACLU press release; complaint, PDF; ACLU materials] on behalf of 11 city residents and business owners over the city's tough new Illegal Immigration Relief Act [text, PDF]. Last month, Hazleton voted to punish landlords and employers that lease property to or employ illegal immigrants [JURIST news archive], with or without knowledge of their illegal status. The ordinance, which is scheduled to take effect on September 11, will make English the official language of Hazleton and bar businesses from selling products to illegal immigrants. The ACLU and PRLDEF sued the city [PRLDEF press release, DOC] in the US District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania, arguing that the federal government maintains exclusive power to regulate immigration, adding that the city law is discriminatory under the US Constitution. PRLDEF cited a legal analysis [PDF] of the Hazleton ordinance by the Congressional Research Service, which concluded that "state and federal courts would be precluded on preemption grounds from enforcing many aspects of the proposed ordinance, as such matters are already regulated under the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA)."

Witold Walczak, Legal Director of the ACLU of Pennsylvania, said that the Hazleton ordinance invites discrimination by allowing authorities to question legal immigrants and even citizens. "You might as well just paint a target on every foreigners' forehead or a sign saying 'please treat me differently," Walczak added. PRLDEF added that this lawsuit is the first in the country to challenge a city's illegal immigration law [PRLDEF materials]. AP has more. The Los Angeles Times has additional coverage.

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