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Ordinances approved by local officials in Hazleton, Pa., would have required every apartment dweller to prove lawful citizenship status in order to get an occupancy permit. They would have finedanyone employing or providing housing or most goods and services to illegal aliens. They would have declared English the city’s official language. Those ordinances won’t be enforced � at least, not anytime soon. Last summer, a legal team led by attorneys from Philadelphia’s Cozen O’Connor persuaded a federal judge to block the measures.The legal victory, which is under appeal, could provide a corrective for other local officials from cracking down on noncitizens who lack official permission to live and work in the United States. Lozano v. Hazleton, No. 3:06cv1586 (M.D. Pa.). The victory also will protect citizens and legal residents who are perceived as not belonging, said Thomas G. Wilkinson, a member of the commercial litigation group in Cozen’s Philadelphia office.He led the legal attack on the ordinances. “If the ordinance is allowed to stand, anyone who looks or sounds ‘foreign’ � regardless of their actual immigration status � will not be able to participate meaningfully in life inHazleton, returning to the days when discriminatory laws forbade certain classes of people from owning land, running businesses or living in certain places,” the plaintiffs’ team argued in court documents. Cozen took the case pro bono, investing more than 3,500 hours worth about $1.5 million, Wilkinson said. “We had the opportunity to litigate issues and put on expert witnesses on topics thathad never really played out in the courtroom in this country before,” he said. The central legal issue was whether a local government could enforce its own immigration laws. Hazleton, a city of about 30,000 people in northeastern Pennsylvania, enacted its immigrationordinances in summer 2006. Wilkinson and his team of about five lawyers were joined by attorneys from groups including the Puerto Rican Legal Defense Fund and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). They represented agroup of landlords, business owners and legal immigrants as well as anonymous illegal immigrants. About 20 lawyers contributed on the plaintiffs’ side. During a two-week bench trial in March, they argued that the ordinances would violate a host of constitutional rights, including the 14th Amendment right to due process. They also attacked thecity’s justifications for the provisions, presenting evidence that � contrary to the city’s assertions � recent immigration to Hazleton was economically beneficial and that undocumentedimmigrants actually were involved in fewer crimes than other groups. Furthermore, they said, city officials lack the authority and training to determine anyone’s residency status. Just because someone cannot prove lawful residency does not necessarily mean he or sheis here illegally � that person could be in the process of a status change, for example, or awaiting asylum documentation. On July 26, U.S. District Judge James Munley issued a 206-page ruling barring enforcement of the ordinances. “Whatever frustration officials of the City of Hazleton may feel about the current state of federal immigration enforcement, the nature of the political system in the United States prohibits theCity from enacting ordinances that disrupt a carefully drawn federally statutory scheme,” Munley wrote. “Even if federal law did not conflict with Hazleton’s measures, the City could not enact an ordinancethat violates rights the Constitution guarantees to every person in the United States, whether legal resident or not.” To Wilkinson, it was a “watershed decision” that “showed why it’s important for immigrants to have their right to press their legal issues in federal courts and why they would have a fundamentalright to housing and a fundamental right to work.” Joan Friedman, immigration policy director in the Washington office of the National Immigration Law Center, which promotes immigrants’ rights, said the trial was closely watched by parties on bothsides of the immigration debate. “The judge’s decision was on the merits, and so it had a substantial impact not just on Hazleton but other places that are considering similar ordinances,” Friedman said. Although a federal judge recently declined to block an Arizona law barring businesses from knowingly hiring illegal aliens, the Hazleton ruling has been cited in cases involving similar ordinancesin Valley Park, Mo., and Riverside, N.J., Wilkinson said. “The ordinances obviously have major impact on a lot of people’s lives and are very important from a civil rights point of view,” said Thomas B. Fiddler, another member of the Cozen O’Connor team. Hazleton officials planned to file an appeal challenging “virtually all of the facts” Munley cited in his ruling, said Kris Kobach, a professor at the University of Missouri-Kansas City School ofLaw, who helped represent the city. Still, Kobach had nothing but praise for Cozen’s lawyers. “I obviously disagree completely with their view, but they are great attorneys and did a good job,” he said. Hazleton raised more than $40,000 for its defense team through donations, Kobach said. Wilkinson and Fiddler were joined by other members of Cozen O’Connor, including Linda S. Kaiser Conley,Doreen Yatko Trujillo, Elena Park and Ilan Rosenberg. The 500-attorney firm quickly volunteered after the ACLU of Pennsylvania reached out to Philadelphia firms with immigration experience, said Witold Walczak, that organization’s legal director. Another firm initially volunteered but withdrew after taking a closer look at the case, Walczak said. Wilkinson said a couple of area firms did not want to get involved in a politically unpopularissue. Cozen O’Connor has received hate mail, threatening e-mails and telephone calls from the public as a result of its involvement, but also received support from the legal community, Wilkinson said.For example, the 29,000-member Pennsylvania Bar Association has passed a resolution opposing state and local regulation of immigration.

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