The Illegal Immigration Relief Act in Hazleton, Pa., has not been enforced since its passage in 2006 because of court challenges. A federal appeals court in Philadelphia is scheduled to hear oral arguments on Aug. 15.
Hazleton's ordinance sought to fine landlords who rent to illegal immigrants and deny business permits to companies that employ them. A companion measure required prospective tenants to register with City Hall and pay for a rental permit.
On Monday, the Supreme Court struck down part of an Arizona law that would have required all immigrants to obtain or carry immigration registration papers, along with a provision making it a state criminal offense for an illegal immigrant to seek work or hold a job.
Opponents of the Hazleton regulations "are in a stronger position today as a result of this Supreme Court decision," said Omar Jadwat, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union who has worked on the Pennsylvania case.
The Hazleton laws—emulated by cities around the nation—were struck down by a federal judge. The 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia later affirmed the decision, saying the ordinances usurped the federal government's exclusive power to regulate immigration.
But on Monday, the high court upheld an element of the Arizona law allowing police to check the status of someone they suspect is not in the United States legally.
That decision shows states "do play an integral part in combating illegal immigration," said U.S. Rep. Lou Barletta, R-Pa.
"(T)housands of properly trained law enforcement officers in Arizona can help the federal government enforce immigration law," he said in a statement.
Barletta had championed the Hazleton laws as mayor of the northeastern Pennsylvania city after two illegal immigrants were charged in a fatal shooting. He argued that a growing population of illegal immigrants in the community of about 25,000 increased crime and overwhelmed police, schools and hospitals.
The Supreme Court recently ordered the Philadelphia appellate judges to reconsider their Hazleton decision following the justices' ruling on a different Arizona law. In May 2011, the high court affirmed employer sanctions for hiring workers who are in the country illegally.
Another issue the appeals court must consider in August is whether the Hazleton crackdown would violate federal due process rights, Jadwat said.
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