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A federal judge last week barred the city of Hazleton, Pa., from enforcing a pair of ordinances designed to crack down on illegal immigrants, granting an emergency injunction sought by the American Civil Liberties Union and Hispanic groups. The decision by U.S. District Judge James M. Munley of the Middle District of Pennsylvania is the first of its kind and could have broad impact because dozens of other cities have filed similar ordinances. The ordinance, approved by Hazleton City Council in September and scheduled to take effect Nov. 1, would impose fines on landlords who rent to illegal immigrants and deny business permits to companies that give them jobs. Munley’s 13-page opinion in Lozano v. City of Hazleton cites the strong arguments lodged by the plaintiffs’ team of 24 lawyers who said the law would cause immediate and irreparable harm to individuals, landlords and businesses. In the suit, lawyers from the ACLU, the Puerto Rican Legal Defense Fund and the Pennsylvania Statewide Latino Coalition argued that the ordinances suffer from numerous constitutional flaws. The laws violate the Supremacy Clause, they said, because they “infringe on the federal government’s authority over immigration and are inconsistent and in conflict with federal immigration law.” The suit also said the laws violate the 14th Amendment Due Process Clause by “failing to afford any notice or opportunity to contest a determination that a person is an �illegal alien’ or �unauthorized worker’ prior to the time the person is forced from their job or home.” They also violate the Equal Protection Clause and the Fair Housing Act, the suit said, by discriminating invidiously based on race, ethnicity and national origin. Munley concluded that the law should be put on hold after finding that the plaintiffs had “raised serious claims and there is a reasonable probability of success on the merits on one or more of the claims.” In filing the suit, lead plaintiffs attorney Witold J. Walczak, the legal director of the ACLU of Pennsylvania, said “immigration reform is an important issue but if every little town like Hazleton across the 50 states makes up their own rules about immigration, we’re going to be left with an even bigger mess.” Munley found the plaintiffs had made a valid initial showing of irreparable harms the law would cause. One plaintiff, named in court papers only as Jane Doe, said she risks being evicted from her apartment along with her two young children, Munley noted, even though she is not an “illegal alien” under federal law. And several other John and Jane Doe plaintiffs are “minor school-age children residing with their parents in Hazleton, who may be forced to leave Hazleton and their schooling if the ordinances are enforced,” Munley wrote. And plaintiffs Rosa and Jose Luis Lechuga claim they “have suffered and continue to suffer a great loss of business in their store and restaurant located in Hazleton, which they blame on the ordinances,” Munley noted. Munley found that an immediate injunction was warranted because “a monetary price cannot be placed on such matters as plaintiffs’ housing, livelihood and education. Therefore, monetary damages would not be sufficient to make the plaintiffs whole, and the plaintiffs’ risk irreparable injury if the temporary restraining order is not granted.” The city of Hazleton’s lawyer, Andrew B. Adair of Deasey Mahoney & Bender in Philadelphia, argued that the ordinances were designed to prevent problems of social disorder and chaos that city leaders connect to the presence of illegal aliens in Hazleton. In passing the law, city council issued a finding that “illegal immigration leads to higher crime rates, subjects our hospitals to fiscal hardship and legal residents to substandard quality of care, contributes to other burdens on public services … and diminishes our overall quality of life.” Munley noted that Hazleton Mayor Lou Barletta told a newspaper that the city passed the ordinance partly in response to an incident in which four illegal Dominican immigrants were arrested in connection with the shooting of a 29-year-old man. But Munley said Barletta also “admitted that he had no statistics to support his claims of increased crime related to illegal immigration, nor even any numbers on how many illegals had entered the city.” In granting the injunction, Munley found that the harm that would be suffered by the plaintiffs outweighs the potential harm to the city if the law is put on hold. While the plaintiffs had offered evidence and affidavits that described “concrete harm faced by various individuals,” Munley found that the city “has offered only assertions that violent crime in Hazleton is a product of illegal immigration and that the city faces higher costs for social services because of the presence of undocumented persons.” In last week’s hearing, Munley said, Adair argued that crime in Hazleton had increased by 10 percent between 2004 and 2005. Munley was unimpressed, saying Adair “offered no evidence to connect this increase to the presence of illegal immigrants” and “no statistics to demonstrate the number of illegal immigrants living in Hazleton in those years.” Compared to the complaints of specific harm offered by the plaintiffs, Munley said, the city’s “vague complaints about the presence of illegal immigrants � problems that could be ascribed to a number of factors beyond the presence of people without legal documents and which might not be alleviated by the city’s programs anyway � do not demonstrate that the city would face greater harm from issuing injunctive relief than the defendants would from not granting their motion.” In addition to ACLU attorney Walczak, the plaintiffs’ team includes Thomas G. Wilkinson Jr., Linda S. Kaiser, Doreen Yatko Trujillo, Thomas B. Fiddler, Elena Park and Ilan Rosenberg of Cozen O’Connor; Lillian Llambelis, Foster Maer and Jackson Chin of the Puerto Rican Legal Defense Fund; George R. Barron of Wilkes-Barre, Pa.; David Vaida of Allentown, Pa.; Barry H. Dyller of the Dyller Law Firm in Wilkes-Barre; Lee Gelernt, Omar C. Jadwat, Lucas Guttentag and Jennifer C. Chang of the ACLU’s Immigrants’ Rights Project’s New York and San Francisco offices; Paula Knudsen of the ACLU’s Harrisburg office; Mary Catherine Roper of the ACLU’s Philadelphia office; Shamaine Daniels, Laurence E. Norton II and Peter Zurflieh of the Community Justice Project in Harrisburg; and Peter D. Winebrake of Trujillo Rodriguez & Richards in Philadelphia, representing the Pennsylvania Statewide Latino Coalition. (Copies of the 13-page opinion in Lozano v. City of Hazleton , PICS No. 06-1539, are available from The Legal Intelligencer . Please call the Pennsylvania Instant Case Service at 800-276-PICS to order or for information. Some cases are not available until 1 p.m.).

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