Hazleton Residents Ask Judge to Issue Restraining Order Stopping City’s Harsh Anti-Immigrant Law

August 30, 2006
Contact: John Garcia, PRLDF, (212) 739-7513 or Sonji_Patrick@prldef.org

HAZLETON, PA – Hazleton residents asked a federal judge to issue a restraining order preventing the city’s harsh anti-immigrant laws from being put into affect. The residents, represented by the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund, American Civil Liberties Union, the Community Justice Project, the law firm of Cozen O’Connor and local attorneys George Barron, David Vaida, and Barry Dyller, asked the judge for immediate action.

“People are moving out of Hazleton, businesses are closing and we’re getting reports of people yelling racial slurs,” said Cesar Perales, President and General Counsel of the PRLDEF. “The city created this atmosphere by passing this misguided ordinance.”

The court papers asked the judge to PUT SYNPOPSIS HERE.

The court papers describe instances of harassment and other ills suffered by many Hazleton residents.

The ordinance, approved on July 13, is scheduled to take effect on September 11. The ordinance defines certain persons as “illegal aliens,” including both undocumented immigrants and individuals whose residency status is lawful under federal law. Under the ordinance, property owners could be fined $1,000 a day for renting to individuals classified as illegal aliens, and business owners could be fined or have their licenses suspended for hiring illegal aliens either knowingly or unknowingly. In addition, businesses would be barred from selling merchandise to illegal aliens, including basic necessities such as food.

The ordinance would also turn Hazleton into an “English-only” community in which city documents and other written communications would not be available in any language but English unless ordered otherwise by federal or state law. Also, documents from residents to city officials would have to be written in English.

The groups filed a lawsuit against the city August 15, on behalf of several individual and organizational clients. The groups said in legal papers that the ordinance violates the U.S. Constitution’s Supremacy Clause because it seeks to override federal law. The ordinance also violates business and property owners’ due process rights under the constitution because it is nearly impossible for them ensure compliance. In addition, the ordinance’s “English only” provision violates city residents’ First Amendment rights to free speech.

The plaintiff’s TRO request is online at: www.prldef.org.

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