The right of a small town in Missouri to deal with the cost and crime caused by the influx of illegal aliens has been upheld by a federal judge who ruled the community’s ordinance penalizing local companies that hire undocumented workers is not pre-empted by federal law, does not discriminate against Hispanics and does not violate due-process rights or state law.
The ruling late Thursday by U.S. District Judge E. Richard Webber was in favor of Valley Park, Mo., located about 20 miles west of St. Louis.
Valley Park is one of several cities across the U.S. that have attempted to address the problems resulting from illegal immigration and the failure of the federal government to address the issue.
City officials have been in court since 2006 after passing the town’s first immigration law fining landlords who rent to illegals and suspending business permits of companies that hire them. The city eventually repealed the rental ordinance but continued to target businesses.
This week’s Valley Park decision is the first time a federal court has ruled in favor of such an ordinance. Last year, an almost identical law in Hazleton, Pa., was struck down by another federal judge in a different district.
“It’s an across-the-board victory,” attorney Kris Kobach, who represents Valley Park and Hazleton, told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “You are going to see this decision quoted by cities all across the country.”
Kobach noted Judge Webber rejected arguments the local ordinance violated the clause to the Constitution giving exclusive jurisdiction over immigration law to the federal government.
Michael Jung, an attorney for Farmers Branch, Texas, which is defending a similar ordinance, agreed.
“[The judge’s] approach … is to say that Congress has not taken over this whole subject matter and shoved the states out of the way,” Jung told the Dallas Morning News.
Additionally, Webber rejected claims the ordinance discriminated against Hispanics.
“The only authority granted to employers under the ordinance is the authority to refuse to hire an individual who fails to provide the documentation, required by federal law, showing employment status,” he wrote in his 57-page ruling.
Jung expressed optimism the Valley Park ruling could positively influence his case on behalf of Farmers Branch, but the town’s mayor pro tem was more cautious.
“A court opinion from a jurisdiction that’s different from the one we are in is not binding on our jurisdiction, so I’m not going to sit up and tell you, ‘Great, that’s going to make ours go through,’ ” Tim O’Hare said. “But I can tell you that it can’t hurt. Judges do look at what other jurisdictions are doing.”
This week’s decision ‘is vindication for this small city,” Kobach said. “The city stood firm and didn’t back down.”
But, he noted, with the contradictory rulings in Hazleton and Valley Park, “now you have two diametrically opposed decisions from the federal courts.”
In a prepared statement, Lucas Guttentag, the ACLU’s immigrants rights project director, said, “If every city and town across the country were allowed to enact its own immigration laws, we would end up with chaos and confusion causing discrimination and profiling against individuals based on their appearance, accent and ethnicity.”
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