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A federal judge in Missouri has ruled that municipalities have a legal right to punish companies that knowingly hire illegal immigrants. In his recent decision, U.S. District Judge E. Richard Webber upheld the immigration ordinance of Valley Park, Mo., which calls for denying or suspending business licenses to employers who knowingly hire illegal immigrants. Webber held that such carefully crafted local ordinances are not preempted by the federal government’s right to regulate immigration, but rather are a normal function of local governments to regulate business within their communities. ( Gray v. City of Valley Park, MO, No. 4:07CV0081 E.D.Mo.). In recent years, courts have struck down local anti-immigration laws across the country, in states including Pennsylvania, California and Texas. The American Civil Liberties Union, one of two plaintiffs that sued to prevent Valley Park from enforcing its ordinance, blasted the judge’s ruling. “If every city and town across the country were allowed to enact its own immigration laws, we would end up with chaos and confusion causing discrimination and profiling against individuals based on their appearance, accent and ethnicity,” said ACLU Immigrants’ Rights Project Director Lucas Guttentag. Immigration reform activists believe the ruling will pave the way for more local immigration ordinances. “The Valley Park decision is a clear green light for other cities and states to enact similar laws,” Michael Hethmon, general counsel for the Immigration Reform Law Institute, said in a statement.

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