Welcome to Hazleton! 'Illegal' Immigrants Beware: Local Immigration Ordinances and What the Federal Government Must Do About It

50 Pages Posted: 21 May 2009 Last revised: 9 Jun 2009

Date Written: May 20, 2009


On July 13, 2006, the city of Hazleton made national news as the first municipality in the country to pass ordinances against illegal immigrants. The majority of municipal legislation that passed regulated the employment of undocumented workers. The ordinances resulted from municipal perceptions that the federal government has failed to enact and enforce comprehensive immigration legislation. Thereafter, several states and municipalities across the country passed ordinances against illegal immigration. Since then, the federal courts have been inundated with lawsuits challenging the validity of municipal ordinances.

This article delves into the profound impact that municipal ordinances that sanction businesses for employing undocumented workers will have on immigration regulation; and furthers the much-needed discussion on the need for comprehensive immigration reform on a national level by pointing out the dangers of immigration reform when it occurs on a local level. In particular, the article focuses on the constitutionality of ordinances like Hazleton's Illegal Immigration Relief Ordinance. Using the Hazleton employment ordinance as a backdrop for analysis, the article examines the whether the federal immigration employment statute, the Immigration Reform and Control Act, constitutionally preempts Hazleton-like employment ordinances. Through this analysis, the article identifies the need for the federal government's enforcing existing federal immigration laws in a consistent and fair manner.

Legal scholarship has long debated the role of state and local authorities in immigration enforcement. While some scholars propose federal exclusivity, other scholars propose a more cooperative federalist model where both governments work together. This article brings a new perspective to existing scholarship through critically analyzing Hazleton's employment ordinance. The article examines the policy implications of the municipal ordinances and argues that the negative policy affects, such as the affect on foreign relations and how as the number of ordinances passed continues to grow, employment discrimination against immigrants - both legal and illegal - will rise sharply, outweighs any potential benefit.

Finally, the article posits that federal courts should use the federalism principles as a basis for addressing state and local immigration regulation. Further, it discusses how piecemeal immigration legislation will have an adverse affect on the future implementation and enforcement of existing federal immigration employment law.

Keywords: immigration, federalism, civil rights, local ordinances, Federal Immigration Control and Reform Act, Illegal Immigration and Relief Ordinance, illegal immigration

JEL Classification: D60, D63, F02, F22, I31, J15, J61, J71, K33

Suggested Citation

McKanders, Karla Mari, Welcome to Hazleton! 'Illegal' Immigrants Beware: Local Immigration Ordinances and What the Federal Government Must Do About It (May 20, 2009). Loyola University Chicago Law Journal, Vol. 39, No. 1, 2007, University of Tennessee Legal Studies Research Paper No. 65, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1407727

Karla Mari McKanders (Contact Author)

Vanderbilt University, School of Law ( email )

131 21st Avenue South
Nashville, TN 37203-1181
United States
615-322-3092 (Phone)

HOME PAGE: http://https://law.vanderbilt.edu/bio/karla-mckanders

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