Friday, February 1, 2008
Yesterday, U.S. District Judge E. Richard Webber entered summary judgment for the city of Valley Park, Missouri and upheld a local ordinance denying business licenses to employers who hire undocumented immigrants. Judge Webber rejected the argument of the American Civil Liberties Union and the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund challenging the ordinance. Here is the order. Download gray_13108.pdf Here is the city's press release.
The ACLU issued this press release:
"Today a Missouri federal court upheld the City of Valley Park’s so-called “Illegal Immigration Relief Act” that unlawfully punishes business owners and employers who are suspected of hiring undocumented workers. The Act is the latest in a series of ordinances passed in Valley Park seeking to drive immigrants out of the City. After the first two of such laws were struck down by a Missouri state court in a separate lawsuit in March of last year, Valley Park, in an attempt to circumvent that court decision, enacted amended ordinances that punished employers and landlords for renting to or hiring undocumented immigrants. Valley Park decided to repeal the housing ordinance this past summer when faced with a lawsuit brought by a several landlords. The decision today addresses only the remaining employment ordinance.
The following can be attributed to ACLU Immigrants’ Rights Project Director Lucas Guttentag: “This decision contradicts the other court rulings invalidating municipal ordinances and is at odds with the clear congressional mandate imposing a uniform federal immigration enforcement system. 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. The city’s attempt to force local employers to use a flawed federal database ignores the proven errors and inaccuracies in that system.”
The following can be attributed to Ricardo Meza, Midwest Regional Counsel for MALDEF: “Valley Park wisely abandoned its earlier attempt to deny housing based on suspected immigration status and should do the same with this discriminatory employment law. As Escondido, California and other cities that have rejected or repealed similar ordinances know, punishing immigrants is not only illegal but unwise. The real solution to the misguided concerns that lead localities to enact these ordinances is for Congress to fix the broken immigration system and adopt comprehensive immigration reform.”
Courts have struck down local anti-immigrant ordinances across the country. Cases include Lozano v. City of Hazleton in Hazelton, Pennsylvania; Garrett v. City of Escondido in Escondido, California; and Villas at Parkside Partners v. City of Farmers Branch in Farmers Branch, Texas."
It looks like we may be seeing a conflict developing in the lower courts. Might we see the Supreme Court address this issue in the future?
I do not mean to "play the race card" but here is an entry from Hispanic Tips about what the Valley Park Mayor had to say about immigrants in February 2007:
Whenever Valley Park Mayor Jeffery Whitteaker begins thinking about illegal immigration something he does quite often his mind fills with unpleasant visions of Mexicans pouring into town. “My main issue is overcrowding,” says Whitteaker, a boisterous good old boy who admires Bill Clinton (”He’s so good he could sell a blind man a pair of sunglasses”) and drives a truck for a local excavation company. “You got one guy and his wife that settle down here, have a couple kids, and before long you have Cousin Puerto Rico and Taco Whoever moving in. They say it’s their cousins, but I don’t really think they’re all related. You see fifteen cars in front of one house. That’s pretty suspicious.” Source: http://www.riverfronttimes.com/2007-02-28/news/valley-park-to-mexican-immigrants-adios-illegals/full
This article goes on to state:
"City attorneys warned Whitteaker not to discuss the case with Riverfront Times, for fear that he might use ethnic slurs. "Oh, they don't want me to say something that could be helpful to the other side," the mayor explains. Such as? "Oh, you know, like 'wetbacks' or 'beaners' or something." (emphasis added).
Whitteaker says the idea for the law came to him one morning last summer while listening to a radio-show interview with the mayor of Hazleton, Pennsylvania, whose similar ordinance is the subject of an ongoing legal skirmish. "The problems they had in Hazleton, I seen the same thing here, just on a smaller scale," Whitteaker explains, citing public urination and driving without insurance. He dodges repeated requests for specific evidence as to how undocumented Mexicans have "destroyed" Valley Park, stressing only that the ordinance pertains to people of all ethnicities. "The key word," he maintains, "is 'illegal.' Why doesn't anybody get that?"" (emphasis added).
We can only wonder if race somehow influenced the passage of the Valley Park Illegal Immigration Relief Act?
Thanks to my friend Rigel Oliveri (Missouri-Columbia) for the tips about the background on the Valley Park ordinance. She is working on a great paper looking at local immigration ordinances from a housing angle.