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Lozano v. City of Hazleton, Pennsylvania (Amicus Counsel)

In 2006, in move that came to be echoed around the country, the City of Hazleton, Pennsylvania enacted a series of anti-immigrant ordinances: the “Illegal Immigration Relief Act Ordinance” and the “Tenant Registration Ordinance.” These ordinances would have imposed steep fines on landlords who rented to undocumented immigrants and denied business permits to owners who hired them. Hazleton has never substantiated its claims that a host of local problems were caused by undocumented immigrants.

Almost immediately, the American Civil Liberties Union, the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund, and private counsel challenged the ordinances in federal court on behalf of Hazleton residents, landlords and business owners.

In July 2007, a federal district court ruled that the ordinances violated the Supremacy and Due Process clauses of the United States Constitution. U.S. District Judge James M. Munley decided in favor of the Latino plaintiffs and found that the ordinance usurped the federal government’s exclusive power to regulate immigration, deprived residents of their constitutional right to due process, and violated federal and state law. The City appealed.

In April 2008, MALDEF filed an amicus curiae (“friend of the court”) appellate brief in support of Judge Munley’s decision. 25 national civil rights and Pennsylvania-based Latino and immigrant advocacy organizations joined MALDEF as amici supporting the plaintiffs-appellees. MALDEF urged the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit to affirm the district court’s decision and offered an additional reason to do so, arguing that Hazleton’s ordinances violated the Equal Protection Clause. MALDEF also supported Judge Munley’s decision to allow some of the Lozano plaintiffs to proceed anonymously in the trial court. Oral argument took place on October 30, 2008 and a decision is expected in 2009.