Anti-Immigrant Housing Ordinances and Comprehensive Reform by Daniel Eduardo Guzman

Introduction No fewer than 100 counties and municipalities across the nation have passed anti-immigrant housing ordinances (AIHOs) that are designed to expel or discourage undocumented immigrants from living in their communities.[1] The most infamous of these municipal ordinances, Hazleton, Pennsylvania’s Illegal Immigration Relief Act Ordinance (IIRA), was passed in 2006.[2] In addition to Hazleton-style IIRAs, AIHOs without language explicitly targeting immigrants are also fairly common.  Seeking the same ends as municipalities that employ Hazleton-style AIHOs, municipalities use housing provisions addressing “overcrowding,” “maximum occupancy” and family make-up to drive undocumented immigrants out of their communities. The latter AIHOs, by excluding language that specifically implicates immigrants, are more legally robust.  And since courts have repeatedly concluded that federal law preempts Hazleton-style AIHOs, municipalities seeking to expel immigrants are more likely to use occupancy ordinances to meet those same, anti-immigrant ends.  This Blog post argues that an effective challenge to all AIHOs and Hazleton-style and occupancy ordinances, must reserve a role for both states and the federal government.  Part I of this Blog post examines Hazleton’s aforementioned AIHO and occupancy ordinances in Prince William County, Virginia.  Part II reviews legal theories used to challenge AIHOs.  Part III offers alternative legal and public policy [read more]