Ordinance Blocked That Denied Housing to Undocumented Aliens

Here's an obnoxious idea: make all tenants obtain the government's permission before renting an apartment. Hazleton, PA enacted an ordinance that does just that, with the notion that permits to rent apartments will be denied to those who can't prove their citizenship -- and to those who can't afford the permit.

The ordinance also requires every business in town to obtain a permit, and denies permits to those businesses that employ undocumented aliens. The likely result: businesses won't hire anyone who looks Latino, for fear that job applicants are using forged documents to establish their eligibility to work, jeopardizing the business' ability to survive.

Federal Judge James Munley issued a temporary restraining order that blocks enforcement of the ordinance.

"We find it in the public interest to protect residents access to homes, education, jobs and businesses," he wrote in a 13-page opinion.

The mayor argues that illegal immigration has caused the city's rising crime rate -- as if crime has no other cause than illegal immigration. The argument seems to be based on racism rather than fact, given the court's finding that the city had no evidence linking crime to immigration.

Those who filed suit to enjoin the law (including the ACLU) argue that immigration policy is set by the federal government, not by thousands of cities and towns, each with a different take on the issue.

The court's restraining order expires in about two weeks, giving the judge time to decide whether to enter a permanent injunction against the law's enforcement.

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    Hazleton, PA (none / 0) (#1)
    by scribe on Wed Nov 01, 2006 at 01:14:58 PM EST
    Is a rural town about 20 miles south of Wilkes-Barre.  It's surrounded by mountains and piles of coal mine waste.  It's populated with the descendants of those who were too [deleted], [deleted], or intransigent to get out when the anthracite coal mines closed oh, 50 or so years ago.  After the railroads pulled up the rails, there's really no work there worth speaking of.  It's no surprise they have crime problems (mostly of the knucklehead/poverty/getting high illegally variety), and equally no surprise they're looking for outsider scapegoats.  It's always easier to blame The Other for your woes.

    Median household income:  $28,000
    Median age:  41
    Percent over 65:  19.9
    "About 10.4% of families and 14.2% of the population were below the poverty line, including 20.4% of those under age 18 and 11.6% of those age 65 or over."

    In other words, it's a cheap place to live, with cheap wages, too.  And a very red place.  A vision of 'murca's future, under Bush, Cheney and their successors.

    And, like many other towns in formerly-industrial Pennsylvania, it's undergoing rapid demographic change.  Per wikipedia, in the 2000 census, the racial makeup of the city was 94.70% White, 0.82% African American, 0.16% Native American, 0.65% Asian, 0.01% Pacific Islander, 2.76% from other races, and 0.89% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 4.85% of the population (however, some estimates show that this has grown to as high as 30% since the 2000 Census).

    Aging, white, poor and Republican.

    Funny, though, the portion of the ordinance which was challenged appears to have been "Section 5"  - renting to illegal aliens.  No one appears to have challenged "section 4", dealing with businesses which employ illegal aliens.  It's pretty darn broad (probably broader than the "material support to terrists statute"):

    Any entity or any parent, affiliate, subsidiary or agent of any entity (other than a charity
    recognized as exempt from federal income taxation under Sec. 501 of the Internal Revenue Code of the United States and which has obtained and continues to have in force an exemption from federal income taxation), that employs, retains, aids or abets illegal aliens or illegal immigration into the United States, whether directly or by or through any agent, ruse, guise, device or means, no matter how indirect, and even if the agent or entity might otherwise be exempted from this section, or violates any provision of this Ordinance, shall from the date of the violation or its discovery, whichever shall be later, be denied and barred from approval of a business permit, renewal of a business permit, any city contract or grant as follows:

    5 years for the first violation, 10 for subsequent violations.

    I love that line "no matter how indirect, and even if the agent or entity might otherwise be exempted from this section".  Everyone's at fault with that one.

    Moreover, they define "aids and abets" pretty broadly:

    A. "Aids or abets" includes, but is not limited to:
    (i) hiring or attempted hiring of illegal aliens,
    (ii) providing, renting or leasing real or personal property to illegal aliens,
    (iii) funding or providing goods and services to illegal aliens, except as provided in Sec. 4 C.,
    (iv) funding, providing goods and services to or aiding in the establishment or continuation of any day labor center or other entity providing similar services, unless the entity acts with due diligence to verify the legal work status of all persons whom it employs, provides job assistance for or in any way assists or facilitates in obtaining any employment.

    Now, how are they going to square that, with this boast from their Wiki page:

    "One of the largest Wal-Mart Supercenters in the US is found along Airport Road."

    Will they stop shopping there?  will they revoke their business permit?

    Nor has anyone addressed "section 6" of the Ordinance:

    A. The City of Hazleton declares that English is the official language of the City.
    B. Unless explicitly mandated by the federal government, the state of Pennsylvania or the City of Hazleton, all official city business, forms, documents, signage will be written in English only.

    These folks can't even get it through their heads that it's the "Commonwealth of Pennsylvania", not the "State of Pennsylvania".


    And, they even wrote in the "we're required to do it unless we say we aren't" language.  How quickly the cancer spreads.

    But, the Republican mayor went out and hired Ashcroft's former head adviser on immigration law, to argue on their behalf in court, and they're getting lots of winger support - Mountain States Legal Foundation and Federation for American Immigration Reform.  The article's blaming the ACLU and a Puerto Rican group for challenging the ordinance.

    Like they have the money to spare on fancy lawyers.

    they should be careful what they wish for (none / 0) (#2)
    by Jen M on Wed Nov 01, 2006 at 02:19:51 PM EST
    they might get it.

    Absence of evidence... (none / 0) (#3)
    by LonewackoDotCom on Wed Nov 01, 2006 at 03:04:16 PM EST
    Just because the judge claims he doesn't see evidence of increased crime doesn't mean that it wasn't provided or that there isn't such evidence. As for his claim that H. hasn't had increased costs because of a massive influx of low-wage illegal labor, I find that very hard to believe. Perhaps the judge has his own agenda of some kind?

    As for the business permits, a company would have to have been convicted in some way before their permit could be revoked, no? H. is not trying to act as ICE agents in this case.

    I note also that a few ACLU chapters have an indirect link to the Mexican government; perhaps before their parent filing suits that will have the effect of enabling illegal immigration they should do something about that.

    Hazleton (none / 0) (#4)
    by scribe on Wed Nov 01, 2006 at 03:51:40 PM EST
    You have adopted an apt screenname.

    If the City wanted to oppose the suit, the proper thing to do is provide objective proof of the increased crime and show it's by illegal immigrants.  That's how it's done in courtrooms.

    Newspapers reporting rumors that since the enactment of the ordinance the illegals are moving to Scranton under cover of darkness (as noted in the wingnut article I linked) is not proof.  Of anything other than the gullibility to any story trashing people-browner-than-you to which wingnuts and Republicans seem genetically vulnerable.

    The only agenda most judges not appointed by the current president have, is to move cases and try to keep their docket from growing too backlogged.