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St. Louis Suburb's Immigration Law Upheld.


ST. LOUIS: A federal appeals panel has upheld a suburban St. Louis town’s ordinance prohibiting the hiring of illegal immigrants, a case that some observers believe could have national implications. A three-judge panel of the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Friday unanimously affirmed a lower court’s ruling in favor of the city of Valley Park.

Similar cases have been heard around the country. Last year, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld an Arizona state law that also bars the hiring of illegal immigrants. Meanwhile, the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia is weighing a similar case out of Hazleton, Pa.

“The Valley Park case is being cited around the country,” said Kris Kobach, a University of Missouri-Kansas City law professor who represented Valley Park and also argued on behalf of the Hazleton law. “This decision has nationwide consequences.”

The Missouri case was brought by the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of Jacqueline Gray, a Valley Park landlord who hires people for odd jobs and maintenance. Valley Park, a working-class community of 6,500 in southwest St. Louis County, has been involved in court battles since the city passed the immigration law in 2006. A St. Louis County judge struck down the original ordinance as well as a revised one.

The original law was spearheaded by former Mayor Jeffery Whitteaker, who was defeated in a re-election bid last year. Mayor Grant Young, who succeeded Whitteaker, said Valley Park spent about $250,000 in recent years on legal fees related to the immigration law. Young had previously said Valley Park, which was 89 percent white in the 2000 Census, “has to become multiracial and multiethnic.”

Alderwoman Stephanie Reynolds wondered why so much effort and money was spent on a law that may never be enforced. Kobach disagreed. Regardless of whether the city is enforcing the law, publicity about it appears to be deterring businesses from hiring illegal immigrants in Valley Park, he said. “The message has gone out,” Kobach said. “People who are inclined to violate the law by hiring illegal aliens are inclined to go elsewhere. The law is in place and appears to be having the desired affect.”

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