Ordinance in PA Dies in High Court
March 10, 2014- Tom Joseph
HAZLETON - The U.S. Supreme Court has
refused to hear the case of anti-immigrant ordinances passed by a Pennsylvania
city in 2006 but deemed unconstitutional by lower courts.
The measures would
have barred individuals the city of Hazleton defined as "illegal
aliens" from rental housing, and would have punished Hazleton residents
and businesses for doing business with individuals who couldn't prove they were
in the U.S. legally.
According to Vic Walczak, legal director
for the ACLU of Pennsylvania and co-counsel in the Hazleton case, the
ordinances drove a wedge.
"It truly divided that city, and
after an eight-year ordeal where we've managed to block the law from ever
taking effect, the case is now over: game, set and match," he declared.
He declared that the now-banned
ordinances had set up what he called a "show me your papers"
atmosphere in Hazleton.
"And who do you ask for papers? Do
you ask somebody like me who's white-skinned and has a New Jersey accent, or
are you going to ask the people who look and sound foreign, who may be a little
bit darker in skin color?", the ACLU lawyer asked.
Walczak said the Hazleton decision may
well have an effect far beyond the city's boundaries.
"Now that, in fact, it has been
declared unconstitutional, I think it's going to scare communities who might
want to go down this road off from going forward."
Walczak said that, prior to the court
decision, any time anyone who got a job in Hazleton had to produce
documentation that they were in the country legally, as did people applying for
housing. Walczak said the decision allows Hazleton to put the issue in the
rear-view mirror and move forward as a welcoming and productive city.