Hazleton Revises Immigration Act
Hazleton City Council will enact the latest revisions to the Illegal Immigration Relief Act during a rare Friday afternoon meeting.
The revisions are fairly substantive.
First, it will be split into two separate ordinances. The â€œofficial Englishâ€ provision will become a free-standing ordinance, leaving IIRA itself to consist of the prohibitions on renting to and/or employing illegals...
The revised IIRA will continue to fine those who rent to illegals $1,000 per day per person, and will revoke the business privilege license of any business found hiring illegals. However, the action taken against businesses hiring illegals has changed.
â€œOnce a complaint is filed, the Code Enforcement Office will send notification to the employer,â€ Solicitor Chris Slusser said. â€œThe employer has three days to respond. In event that there is a violation, the business permit is suspended until the violation is cured.â€
That section also includes a clause instructing businesses to rely on the federal Pilot Program, set up under a federal 1996 immigration law revision, to check the immigration status of current and/or prospective employees. However, if an employer made a good faith effort to do so and was supplied with incorrect information, no violation will be found to exist.
Plus, that provision allows other employees of a firm closed for a illegal hiring violation to file suit against the employer. For instance, if a firm is closed for two weeks because of a violation, the new provision allows the firmâ€™s other employees to file suit asking for the lost two weekâ€™s wages.
â€œThatâ€™s the part I like best,â€ Mayor Lou Barletta said. â€œIt protects legal American workers â€“ the penalty is on the business. This allows the workers to sue the employer for lost wages, attorneysâ€™ fees and all costs.â€
Barletta added he liked the fact that the suspension of the business privilege license comes immediately not at the beginning of the year when it must be renewed. â€œSo, if a firm is found in violation in February, it potentially loses 11 months (of) business privilege,â€ Barletta said. â€œIt is a strong provision.â€
Other changes, according to Slusser, are technical. Definitions are expanded. The term â€œillegal alienâ€ is defined as anyone â€œwho is not lawfully in the countryâ€¦â€ under existing U.S. immigration law. Another change is the inclusion of the term â€œharboringâ€ illegals, which has been recognized by federal courts.
There are other expanded definitions as well.
â€œThe changes will make it stronger more defensible,â€ Barletta said. â€œIt will achieve our goal of making Hazleton the toughest place in the country for illegal aliens. And I believe (legal opponents) will have a hard time defeating this.â€
The new official English ordinance will not change substantively from the provision in existing law, expect that it will be a separate bill. And that isnâ€™t really a surprise.
Shortly after first reading passage of the existing law, Barletta said if heâ€™d had it to do over, heâ€™d have introduced it as a separate bill.
â€œIt really doesnâ€™t have anything to do with illegals. It should have been separate from the beginning,â€ Barletta said.
He added that the group ProEnglish, an Arlington, Va.-based group long advocating the declaration of English as the countryâ€™s official language, has volunteered its help in defending that bill if it is challenged in court.
The revisions are designed to make the bills more likely to withstand the court challenge filed by the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund, American Civil Liberties Union offices in Philadelphia, New York and San Francisco and a collection of private attorneys.
Last week, under a rather typical legal procedure, the city agreed not to enforce the version of the ordinance passed July 13, and will instead hold off enforcement until the latest revisions are enacted.
In exchange, legal opponents agreed to withdraw their request for an injunction against the initial ordinance and will instead re-file it after the revised version is enacted.
Under the agreement, the city will give opponents 20 days to either amend its legal complaint against the ordinance and/or re-file a request for an injunction. If all goes as expected, the 20-day clock would begin ticking Wednesday morning, as ordinances must pass council on three readings.
The revisions were put together by the cityâ€™s legal team which will defend the act (or now, acts) in court. That team consists of attorney Michael Hethmon, who is affiliated with the Federation for American Immigration Reform; attorney Kris Kobach, a former aide to former Attorney General John Ashcroft on immigration issues, and the Mountain States Legal Foundation, headed by former Reagan Administration official William Perry Pendley.
This is a developing story that dozens of jurisdictions and thousands of Americans will be following in the months to come. (For instance, here.) When Hazleton's revised Illegal Immigration Relief Act is released, it will be forwarded, posted, copied, mailed and placed directly in the hands of county supervisors and town council members all over the U.S.
The revisions are intended to assist in defending the legislation against legal challenge by pro-illegal-alien advocacy groups.
Check back here for updates on this community safety and quality of life initiative. Loudoun County and Herndon residents deserve the same consideration from our public officials.
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