In light of its decision in Chamber of Commerce v. Whiting, the Supreme Court remanded Hazleton, Pa. v. Lozano, Pedro, et al.,3 to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit for further consideration. This case originated in 2006 and concerns an ordinance passed by then-Mayor Lou Barletta of Hazleton, Pa. The ordinance targeted undocumented immigrants and penalized landlords who rented to them and employers who hired them. The ordinance was immediately challenged and in 2007 was blocked by a federal district court in Pennsylvania. The Third Circuit upheld the lower court's ruling, finding that the Hazleton ordinance was preempted by the federal government's exclusive jurisdiction to regulate immigration.
It is unknown at this time how the Third Circuit will apply the Supreme Court's decision in Whiting to the Hazleton law, which contains provisions that go far beyond business licensing requirements. Hazleton's law would not only suspend the licenses of employers, but also of landlords who rent property to undocumented immigrants. It also would prohibit businesses from recruiting, hiring, continuing to employ, permitting, dispatching or instructing anyone who is an "unlawful worker." The provision would prohibit "harboring," defined as "letting, leasing, or renting to an illegal alien" in "knowing or reckless disregard of the fact that an alien has come to, entered, or remains in the United States in violation of law." It also would make legal immigration status a "condition precedent" to entering into a valid lease, and deems as breached any lease with a person lacking lawful status. The Hazleton ordinance also provides for a private right of action for citizens to bring a complaint alleging that a local business or landlord is violating the law.
The Hazleton case warrants monitoring, as similar legislation has passed or is pending in numerous states and localities. Whatever the Third Circuit decides is likely to be challenged again in the Supreme Court.