June 9th, 2011
Anti-Immigrant Laws May Begin To Proliferate, Again

Already the ripples of the U.S. Supreme Court decision on immigration that I spoke about recently are starting to be felt. Already the wave of premature celebration over  piecemeal legal victories is growing.

Here’s what’s happened: The Supreme Court has decided that an Arizona law that revokes the state licenses of businesses that don’t comply with worker verification is legal. So Arizona may proceed to take operating licenses away from businesses that don’t comply with their state immigration laws.

In the wake of this decision the Justices of the Supreme Court have given new life to a controversial immigration law in a small town in Pennsylvania. In 2006 the town of Hazleton made headlines when it enacted deeply stringent laws that, according to,

would penalize landlords who rented to illegal immigrants, and employers who hired them.

A year later the law was blocked by a federal court after challenges by area Latino rights groups. In 2010 a U.S. Appeals Court upheld the block saying that immigration was the sole jurisdiction of the federal government. But now the Supreme Court has once again opened the door to the Hazleton law, specifically because of their recent decision in the Arizona law. They’ve ordered that the Hazleton statute be sent back to the Appeals Court for another review.

You can see where some of the the folks in Hazleton and the proponents of strict immigration measures would be giddy about this. They think they’ve been given a gift. They think the Supreme Court has given them the nod to proceed. But it may not be that cut-and-dry.

A judicial order of further review is not a reversal. The Supreme Court didn’t say the Hazleton law was good to go, they said the Appellate Court needed to take a second look. There’s a big difference. Witold “Vic” Walczak, legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania, told that

two out of three recent remands to the Third Circuit resulted in reaffirmations of the original rulings.

So it’s too soon for the anti-immigrant ilk to be making party plans. The Supreme Court merely wants the Hazleton law to be put to a newer test: Does it infringe on federal jurisdiction, given the parameters of the Arizona decision? Did the Hazleton fathers over-step their boundaries? It could be that the Hazleton law is being set up to be shot down twice and for all.

Regardless of which way the Appellate Court leans, it’ll speak volumes about the idea of America, what it means and what it is to be an American. This is what the entire immigration debate is about and has been about for generations.  This Hazelton remand is no different.

Follow Victor Landa on Twitter: @vlanda

[Photo by yeowatzup]


Leave a Reply