Category: State Immigration Laws

Hazelton, PA to pay attorney’s fees for ACLU and others

A U.S. Judge, James Munley, ruled that the City of Hazleton, Pennsylvania, is obliged to pay $1.4 million to civil rights attorneys who derailed the city’s immigration law.  

Munley granted the attorneys roughly half of the $2.84 million that they had hoped for in the case.  The case began in 2006 and made it to the Supreme Court.  

Munley ordered Hazelton to pay $1.38 million in fees and $47,594 in costs.  

An ACLU attorney, Omar Jadwat, said “Hazleton knew and its politicians knew all along that if they were sued and lost, there would be a bill to pay at the end.”

The Hazelton law sought to punish landlords whose clients did not have legal residency and companies that employed immigrants who lacked the legal means of working in the United States.  

Those that challenged the law included: the ACLU, Latino Justice, the Community Justice Project, and attorneys from the Philadelphia law office of Cozen O’Connor.  

The trial that brought about Munley’s court order to get rid of the law and the appeals to a circuit court and the Supreme Court caught international attention.  The case also brought attention to Hazelton Mayor Lou Barletta and aided in his winning of a congressional seat.  He was a large proponent of the law following two cases of murder that involved immigrants.  

City council voted in many versions of the law following the murders.  

Mayor Joseph Yannuzzi when he was a councilman, “We felt we were right. We still feel we are right. Of course, they don’t agree with us.”

Hazelton’s attorneys argued that immigrants, who didn’t have the correct documentation to be in the U.S., strained the city’s funds.  

Munley blocked the parts of the law that involved businesses and landlords so the law was never enacted.

In 2010, the U.S. Third Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia upheld Munley’s ruling.  In 2011, the Supreme Court requested that the Philadelphia court reconsider, citing a ruling that upheld a similar law in Arizona.  

The Philadelphia court kept its decision and the case died in 2014 when the Supreme Court decided against further involvement.  

Barletta went on to say, “What is legal today in Arizona or Fremont, Nebraska, is not legal in Hazleton. That’s unfair, and the U.S. Supreme Court should step in and fix this patchwork of local laws intended to combat illegal immigration.”

Jadwat went against, “One thing that is clear for a long time now, partially because of this case and also because of other cases, is that the path Hazleton chose to go down … is not a path open to cities.”

St. Louis Immigration Attorney Jim Hacking Discusses Nebraska Town’s Anti-Immigrant Ordinance

A Nebraska town has gained notariety after battling with a law requiring landlords either not to rent to undocumented immigrants or require some sort of license. Just four years after the residents of the small town of Fremont voted to impose these regulations on undocumented immigrants, the city will soon begin requiring renters to get a permit from the city.

Renter’s permit law implemented in Nebraska

Voters in the conservative town of 26,000 backed the housing restrictions requiring renters to gain a permit for the second time and without any opposition from the Supreme Court, the law is now active. Since housing restrictions were going to be implemented in 2010, lawsuits sprung up challenging the propositions. The city had a chance to reconsider, but lawmakers are choosing to press on implementing the law and plan to meet any litigation head on.  The only things that may prevent further policies for renters is if the Supreme Court intervenes and stops the permits from being issued. Fremont Police Chief Jeff Elliott stated, “Unless the U.S. Supreme Court jumps in during the next few hours, we’re going ahead.”

Policy waiting to be challenged

Immigrant Activists and the American Civil Liberties Union have released statements assuring immigrants and the state that they will closely be watching for any cases of discrimination. Critics of the proposition also believe this may not be the most cost effective decision for Nebraska’s economy. Legal fees may end up costing the state millions of dollars and possibly lost federal grants. Another reason is it may negatively impact Nebraska’s image as an open and accepting state for all. All the other cities that have attempted at restricting illegal immigration have wound up in expensive court battles that can last for years.

Under the new system, renters will have to go to their local police station and ask for a form and pay a fee in order to be issued the permit. For undocumented immigrants, their information will be submitted into an online database for future reference. If the license is revoked for any reason, both the landlord and the renter will be notified. While there is no telling how long this policy will be in place or when it will be challenged, immigration activists worry if other Midwestern states will decide to take a similar approach with immigration.

If you have questions regarding changing immigration laws in Missouri or need help gaining legal status or a visa, contact us at 314-961-8200 or visit our contact page.


Missouri Takes Another Step Back in the Immigration Debate

Despite repeated reports of the positive effects of embracing immigrants into the community, Missouri legislators have passed another bill that prevents undocumented immigrants from qualifying for in-state tuition college rates. Missouri lawmakers are being criticized for specifically excluding the immigrant population from being able to get an education especially since most of the young immigrants were brought to the U.S. by their parents as children and are all American except for their immigration status.

New Bill excludes immigrant students

Rep. Scott Fitzpatrick is one of Missouri’s legislators and bill’s sponsors who wanted to amend the state’s budget bill in order to have the existing ban be written into state law. Fitzpatrick stated he only wants everyone in Missouri to be treated fairly and if he intended to keep undocumented immigrants out of school he would have written that into the amendment.

The House Budget Committee approved the vote and lawmakers will debate more about the amendment when they return from their midsession break.

Immigrant Friendly laws in the future are unavoidable

Taking an opposite stance, the St. Louis Community College board decided as of the New Year to offer in-state tuition rates to undocumented immigrants with Missouri high school diplomas. By allowing a college education to be attainable to those who wants to learn will eventually turn into an investment. Immigrants who get an education will “want to live, work and go to school in the area.”

After they get a job, most will start businesses and pay taxes making Missouri a better place to live. 18 states including Illinois already offer in-state tuition for undocumented students, but Missouri lawmakers are taking a huge leap backwards. President Obama met with families and Hispanic lawmakers last week trying to figure out ways to makes immigrant’s lives easier in the U.S. Millions of undocumented families live and work right among us, and because they will not be leaving anytime soon, Missouri will have to start adopting more immigrant friendly laws.

If you have questions regarding applying for a visa or immigration laws, contact us at 314-961-8200 or visit our contact page.


ACLU sues school district for discriminating immigrant parents

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed a suit against Morris County School District which previously required parents to show their government-issued identification before being allowed to register their children in school. The court ruled in favor of the ACLU which will force the school district to change their policy and allow students to enroll without discriminating against parents.

Proof of Registration does not include Immigration Status

Several schools require parents to bring in utility bills as a proof of residence and their children’s birth certificates when registering them for the school year. One public school decided they needed more documentation before allowing children to register. The ACLU believes this is a case of blatant discrimination and so they filed suit to stop the district’s policy requiring for a state-or county issued photo ID for each parent wanting to enroll their children. The school’s policy singles out immigrant communities because those who need to provide identification have to have a social security number or legal immigration status.

ACLU argues against restrictive policy

The New Jersey School District superintendent was not available to comment, but the ACLU spokesperson said, “We’re pleased that the Butler School District will finally change its policy to allow students to enroll without subjecting them to unlawful discrimination.” The policy supports allowing children to get an education regardless of their parent’s immigration status. Changing immigration laws in favor of immigrants shows a promising trend towards a more rational approach to integrating them into our society regardless of their current legal status.  This lawsuit also sets a precedent which will help immigrants enroll their children in public schools without the fear of being rejected.

If you have questions regarding the current immigration laws or need help with a deportation case, contact us at 314-961-8200 or visit our contact page.

Supreme Court denies municipalities’ appeal of their invalidated local immigration ordinances

Two local governments, Texas and Pennsylvania, created ordinances which would prevent undocumented immigrants from being able to rent apartments. This controversial ordinance was appealed and finally made it to the Supreme Court, but the court has refused to hear the case.

Supreme Court says Immigration is a Federal Government Issue

The Supreme Court has made their stance on immigration very clear. They have stated previously that immigration is a federal government issue and local and state laws targeting illegal immigration should be ruled out. This is an important action from the Supreme Court because it urges Congress to take care of the immigration issue through their legislation being worked on currently. It also serves as a warning to local governments to not overstep their boundaries in creating anti-immigrant legislation.

Court makes statement by refusing to hear appeals

The idea that ordinances are being used to keep undocumented immigrants from finding housing in the U.S. is a form of racial discrimination according to immigrant’s rights groups. These situations beg the question of whether anyone on U.S. soil has basic rights or if someone’s status determines these rights.

Furthermore, if someone can discriminate against individuals on issues of housing, can the same be done with providing services such as food? The Pennsylvania case dealt with this issue where the ordinance denied permits to any businesses who hired people who were in the U.S. illegally. Immigration is a highly political subject currently and the Court makes it clear that they do not support local governments creating laws that they think are right. The rights to immigration laws lie solely with the federal government.

If you have questions regarding applying for a visa or immigration laws, contact us at 314-961-8200 or visit our contact page.


Texas State Senator on Hot Seat for History of Hiring Undocumented Workers

Miguel Andrade is an immigrant who used to work for Texas State Sen. Dan Patrick before he decided to run for any public office. Patrick is known in the political community for his harsh stance on immigration which Andrade says is shocking since he used to employ undocumented immigrants.

Patrick admits to hiring undocumented immigrants

Miguel Andrade, of Missouri City, came to the U.S. in the mid-1980s with his cousin and two friends as unauthorized immigrants to find work. They were employed by Patrick who owned a sports bar. At the time, there were no laws against hiring undocumented immigrants, but Andrade makes it clear that Patrick had to have known he was undocumented. I

n response to these statements, Patrick replied, “We had literally hundreds of full-time and part-time employees. It’s a transient business and many young people come and go.” However, he does not deny knowing Andrade and says he faintly remembers him working at one of his establishments. Andrade says the men more than knew each other and Patrick had at one point offered to drive him to the border to see his mother. He calls Patrick “compassionate” and reminisces on the kindness he remembers Patrick showing not only him, but the entire Hispanic community.

Former workers call our hypocritical statements

This is the main reason why Andrade is surprised to hear of Patrick’s statements in office calling on Texas leaders to “stop the invasion” from Mexico. Several opponents are calling Patrick out for being a hypocrite when he previously hired undocumented immigrants, but critics say this is just a political ploy by his opponents.

The practice of hiring workers without proper papers was made illegal by the Immigration Reform and Control Act under President Ronald Reagan, so Patrick is not in trouble for hiring unauthorized workers at the time, but his negative statements about the Hispanic community have hurt Andrade’s feelings to which he replies, “You shouldn’t be one thing when you’re running for office and be something else when you’re not. Here we have the true…hypocrisy of the past versus present political endeavor.”

If you have questions regarding applying for a visa or immigration laws, contact us at 314-961-8200 or visit our contact page.


NYPD blamed for ignoring and not translating immigrant’s reports

A Guatemalan immigrant, 21-year-old Deisy Garcia, and her two children might still be alive today if police had translated and took her reports against her abusive husband seriously. After coming home drunk, he stabbed all three of his family members and fled the state before being caught by police.

Family Members Blame Police’s Inaction

Undocumented immigrant Miguel Mejia-Ramos had been out with friends drinking the night of the incident. When he came home late at night, he became angry after seeing a picture of his wife with another man. He stabbed her in her sleep and because he did not have enough car seats, also murdered his two daughters ages 2 and 1. Mejia-Ramos fled the state until authorities caught up with him in Texas before he was able to reach the border. Police say they did everything they could in the case, but Deisy Garcia’s family members say police ignored her calls for help.

Police said there was “no evidence”

On two separate dates, Garcia called authorities saying her husband is abusing her. Officers came to their apartment but said they would need evidence. The second time when Garcia was assaulted, police took down a domestic-incident report in Spanish. Here Garcia wrote that she feared Mejia-Ramos would kill her and her children. Neither of the documents Garcia filled out were translated into English by either of the officers in the Domestic Violence Unit. Garcia’s mother says, “I know she contacted them and told them he kicked her and abused her, but the police told her they needed to see proof of the abuse. They told her there was no evidence and left it at that.” This case illustrates the disconnect between immigrants and law enforcement because of the language barrier and fear due to undocumented status. Garcia’s brother said, “[The police] are supposed to help us no matter who we are. My sister and her kids might still be alive if they had done their jobs.”

If you have questions regarding applying for a visa or immigration laws, contact us at 314-961-8200 or visit our contact page.


Nebraska city considering repealing anti-immigrant ordinance as legal challenges cause costs to mount

A controversial Nebraska immigration law passed back in 2010 is coming back up for vote and immigration supporters are hoping it will be repealed. A small Nebraska city passed legislation that was supposed to prevent immigrants from being able to rent homes if they did not have legal status. After implementing this rule for a few years, it turns out the ordinance is less effective and more costly than officials previously estimated.

Re-vote on controversial housing law

Fremont, Nebraska is one of the smaller towns located outside of Omaha with a population of around 26,000 that has acted alone to try to curb illegal immigration. Unfortunately, their efforts have resulted in numerous costly court battles that are over budget. The original ordinance required any immigrants looking for a rental property to prove that they had permission to be residing in the U.S. The 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals initially upheld the ordinance in 2013, but just as the city was getting ready to completely impose housing restrictions, newly elected officials wanted to schedule another vote.

The Ordinance does more harm than good

While the goal of the ordinance makes sense to curb illegal immigration, critics have pointed out major flaws in the law which will cost the town “millions of dollars in legal fees and lost federal grants.” Opponents of the housing restrictions say they have only hurt the city’s reputation and driven away people looking for honest work. Many immigrants are leaving Border States for the Midwest where there are agricultural jobs. Fremont is home to a growing immigration population because of jobs at two large Beef plants.

With more immigrants relocating to states with available jobs several cities have tried implementing similar ordinances, but the unsustainable costs have led to second guessing this decision. For anyone applying for housing they are required to pay for a $5 permit and show their legal status. New permits are needed for every additional move, which is an inconvenience to those who reside in apartments. The executive director of the Fremont Area Chamber of Commerce states, “Professionally, I’ve had very few conversations with people who see this as a positive.”

If you have questions regarding applying for a visa or immigration laws, contact us at 314-961-8200 or visit our contact page.

St. Louis Immigration Attorney Jim Hacking Discusses Why More Cities are Rejecting Anti-Immigrant Proposals

With a shrinking U.S.-born workforce, more cities across the nation are rolling out the red carpet for immigrants in order to help the economy. By rejecting anti-immigrant laws and embracing the positive contributions immigrants have on a city, more states are focusing on immigrant integration.

Cities with strictest laws rejecting them for immigrant integration

In Arizona cities that were subject to the controversial immigration law, SB 1070, the “papers please” provision caused much hostility in communities. However, several city leaders have taken a different approach to this provision and the city council in Tucson voted to change how police implement immigration status inquires during normal stops. After SB1070 was struck down in June 2012, the new policies include minors only being questioned with an attorney or guardian present and individuals who report crimes will not have their immigration status checked.

Local Municipalities making own decisions

Tucson declared themselves an “immigrant welcoming city” and many others soon followed. States began welcoming immigrants and embracing newcomers through “community initiatives, policies, and ordinances.”

Chicago, St. Louis and Dayton are some of the big cities that are implementing their plan to grow their economies through welcoming foreign-born residents. In fact, the trend seems to be opposite of what it was just a few years back when most people considered immigrants as those who took away jobs.

According to the Christian Science Monitor, most of the population gets their views on immigration from the government but with the influence of immigration activists and those who believe in equal opportunities for all, officials and cities are taking a much different approach. As Congress struggles to make decisions on the federal level, local municipalities are saying, “We’re not going to wait.”

Treating immigrant populations with the respect that everyone deserves makes good sense.  As cities struggle to balance budgets and reign in deficits, attracting and retaining young immigrant families helps restabilize distressed areas in shrinking communities.

If you have questions regarding the new immigration reform, applying for a visa or the changing immigration laws, contact us at 314-961-8200 or visit our contact page.

St. Louis, Missouri Immigration Attorney Jim Hacking Discusses Large Role that immigrants had on last Tuesday’s election

A large part of the immigration debate is what impact it will have on politics and voting. The changing demographics of America are a widely accepted fact as Latinos have become the largest voting bloc. Political strategists are restructuring their predictions for how elections will turn out based on these new demographics.

Lawmakers reaching out to immigrants for votes

According to this new report by Think Progress, by the year 2050, many states will become “majority-minority” states. This means that minority groups will have the most voting power in political races. This news is enough to make lawmakers think twice which way they will vote on immigration reform and whether or not they will decide to cosponsor current legislation. In New York, Bill De Blasio won the mayoral race after focusing his campaign on how disenfranchised immigrant populations are in regards to income inequality and police harassment. Nearly 85 percent of Latinos voted for De Blasio, which contributed to his victory. De Blasio’s winning strategy was his pro-immigration reputation and outreach programs for foreign-born voters. Other lawmakers are taking similar measures to win the votes of minorities in their states.

Pro Immigrants lawmakers will lead to more effective policies

In New Jersey, newly re-elected Gov. Chris Christie also made outreach to immigrants a fundamental part of his campaign which seems to have worked. He won half of Latino voters in a state where nearly 1 in 4 residents are either Latino or Asian. States with larger immigrant or minority populations will need to have leaders in charge who know how to communicate to a minority population and help integrate them into society. For states such as Missouri which are taking a strong initiative to bring immigrants into their cities, new pro immigrants policies will need to be put in place. Minority influences will most likely have a strong impact not only on how politics are run, but the laws that will be passed.

If you have questions regarding the new immigration reform, applying for a visa or the changing immigration laws, contact us at 314-961-8200 or visit our contact page.