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Pennsylvania City to Delay Immigrant Crackdown Law

September 02, 2006|From the Associated Press

ALLENTOWN, Pa. — The city of Hazleton agreed Friday to delay enforcing one of the toughest crackdowns on illegal immigrants by a U.S. city.

The law fines landlords $1,000 for renting to illegal immigrants, denies business permits to companies that give them jobs and makes English the city's official language. Enforcement was to begin Sept. 11.

The delay came after the city reached an agreement with plaintiffs in a lawsuit, including Latino groups and the American Civil Liberties Union, who wanted the law declared unconstitutional.

Under the agreement, Hazleton must give the plaintiffs at least 20 days' notice before it begins enforcing either the ordinance passed in July or a replacement -- enough time for the ACLU to return to court to try to stop it.

Mayor Lou Barletta said the city agreed to the delay only because it is working on a replacement ordinance that he says will better stand up in court.

"We're not enforcing it because we are in the midst of amending it," said Barletta, who has championed the law. "The amended ordinance will be even stronger and more defensible."

Witold J. Walczak, legal director of the ACLU of Pennsylvania, said, "Hopefully, the legal protection we now have will give some comfort to the local immigrant community and calm their fears."

Barletta proposed the ordinance after two illegal immigrants were charged with shooting and killing a man. He has said the new law has already spurred many illegal immigrants to leave the city.

The ACLU and Latino groups contend that the Constitution gives the federal government exclusive power to regulate immigration and that the ordinance is discriminatory and unworkable. They think the law will foster discrimination against Latinos who came to the U.S. legally.

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of 11 Hazleton residents and business owners and three nonprofit groups. Hazleton, a city of about 31,000, is about 80 miles northwest of Philadelphia.

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