Ruling Over U.S. Town's Immigration Law Vacated

A federal appeals court has vacated its ruling that declared a northeastern Pennsylvania city's illegal immigration law to be unconstitutional, setting the stage for a new round of arguments.

The move by the Philadelphia-based 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals last Friday, reported by the Standard-Speaker, was expected after the U.S. Supreme Court ordered it to take another look at Hazleton's Illegal Immigration Relief Act.

The appeals court had blocked Hazleton from enforcing regulations that would deny permits to business that hire illegal immigrants and fine landlords who rent to them, saying they usurped the federal government's exclusive power to regulate immigration.

The Supreme Court threw out the appeals court ruling in June after the justices upheld a similar employer-sanctions law in Arizona.

Officials in Hazleton have argued that illegal immigrants brought drugs, crime and gangs to the city of about 25,000, overwhelming police, schools and hospitals. The city's 2006 Illegal Immigration Relief Act inspired similar laws around the country, including the one in Arizona.

A companion measure would require prospective tenants to register with City Hall and pay for a rental permit.

The laws have never been enforced. Hispanic groups and illegal immigrants sued to overturn the measures, and a federal judge struck them down following a trial in 2007.

Friday's order from the 3rd Circuit does not mean that Hazleton can begin implementing the laws. The district court's ruling remains in force.