ACLU Picks on Small Towns on Illegal Immigration


ACRU Staff


June 21, 2010

The ACLU and its affiliated lawyers have financially crushed many small towns which sought to enforce federal laws that defined illegal immigration. The same tactics will not work in the ACLU attack on the Arizona law which seeks to make the laws against illegal immigration real, at least within the borders of Arizona. Many other states are waiting to see if the ACLU challenge is denied.

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The facts for this article, but not the legal conclusions, come from a June 20th article in the Omaha World Herald, reviewing all the local ordinances across the country seeking to enforce the provisions of federal immigration laws which the federal government has largely ignored. The article was written because there will be a citizen vote Tuesday in Fremont, Nebraska on such an ordinance.

The article recites that “at least 40 cities have considered illegal immigration laws.” This includes cities which passed such laws but later repealed them, or were overruled by state laws which take priority over local ordinances. Only three such ordinances have been passed, defended by the cities, and gone into the US Courts of Appeal. The ACLU has supported all challenges to local ordinances, and now to the statewide law in Arizona.

Those three cities are Hazleton, Pennsylvania; Farmers Branch, Texas; and Valley Park, Missouri. In the first two cases, the appeals are pending. In the third, however, the appeals court has ruled in favor of the ordinance. Valley Park was the only one to narrow its law to deal solely with employment of illegal aliens within the town. The Arizona law is also restricted to employment aspects of illegal immigration. Valley Park did not get to carry out its law, since the Missouri legislature passed a statewide law which overruled the local ordinance.

The article recites the amount of money that each of these cities had been required to pay out, both for its own lawyers and for ACLU and other lawyers when they have prevailed. To small towns, the $300,000 or so can be disabling. Here, as in litigation against school boards, the ACLU tends to target small jurisdictions, which sometimes cave in and give up because of the costs.

The state of Arizona is not about to be costed out of court. That case will certainly go to the US Supreme Court. Many of the other cases have ruled against the local laws because in some subtle way, they failed to track the existing federal law, precisely. That opened them to a charge that they were “rewriting” the federal law.

It is clear from the creation of the Constitution that the states have possessed the “police power” for the general safety and welfare of their citizens. On that basis, the Arizona law should be upheld, as was the Valley Park ordinance.

Early on there were only a few cities that passed illegal immigration ordinances to make up for the abject failure of the federal government to enforce its own laws. Now that anger and backlash against federal incompetence has spread to at least 18 states. Arizona is the flag-bearer of an effort that began with the lonely actions of Hazleton, Pennsylvania a mere handful of years ago.

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