National, Local Civil Rights Groups Join MALDEF in Court Filing Against Hazleton Ordinance

April 17, 2008

CHICAGO, IL – Today, the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF), the nation’s leading Latino civil rights organization, filed an amicus curiae (“friend of the court”) brief in an appeal of last year’s federal court decision that struck down Hazleton, Pennsylvania’s anti-immigrant ordinances. MALDEF was joined in their effort by 25 national civil rights and Pennsylvania-based Latino and immigrant advocacy organizations.

Hazleton first enacted a series of anti-immigrant ordinances in the summer of 2006. Latino plaintiffs represented by the ACLU, Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund, and private counsel immediately challenged those ordinances in court. In July 2007, a federal district court ruled that the ordinances violated the Supremacy and Due Process clauses of the United States Constitution. Lozano v. City of Hazleton, 496 F. Supp. 2d 477 (M.D. Pa. 2007) is now on appeal before the Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit.

MALDEF and partner organizations (“amici”) filed their brief in support of the plaintiffs-appellees. 'People of good will across diverse communities are united in one voice against the unconstitutional Hazleton ordinance. Our brief provides further constitutional support for the lower court's decision to strike it down,' said MALDEF President and General Counsel John Trasviña.

The brief addresses the long history of racial and national origin-based immigration policy in the United States, culminating in recent state and local efforts targeting “illegal aliens.” The brief also argues that the district court correctly permitted several plaintiffs to proceed anonymously in light of the threats they would face when seeking to protect their rights. MALDEF has urged the circuit court to affirm the district court’s decision and has offered an additional reason to do so, arguing that Hazleton’s ordinances violate the Equal Protection Clause.

“Our brief demonstrates that the Hazleton ordinances, like other local and state anti-immigrant measures, follow in a long-line of discriminatory policies toward newly arrived immigrants,” stated Diana Swisher Andsager of Mayer Brown LLP.

Jennifer R. Clarke, Executive Director of the Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia, added 'the Law Center was founded during the Civil Rights era and is dedicated to ending discrimination in any form. Today, we join this effort to stop a less blatant, but equally harmful form of discrimination.'

MALDEF was assisted in this effort by the law firm of Mayer Brown, LLP. Joining the brief were the Anti-Defamation League, Asian American Institute, Asian American Justice Center, Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund, Asian Pacific American Legal Center, Centro Legal, Inc., Comite de Apoyo a los Trabajadores Agricolas (CATA – The Farmworkers Support Committee), Friends of Farmworkers, Hispanic Bar Association of Pennsylvania, Immigration Equality, Jewish Social Policy and Action Network, La Raza Centro Legal, Lambda Legal, Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, League of United Latin American Citizens, Legal Momentum, National Association of Latin American and Caribbean Communities, National Center for Lesbian Rights, National Council of La Raza, National Immigration Law Center, Pennsylvania Immigration and Citizenship Coalition, Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia, Southern Center for Human Rights, Southern Poverty Law Center, and Welcoming Center for New Pennsylvanians.

For all media inquiries, please contact Laura Rodriguez.

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