In Lozano v. City of Hazelton, the Third Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the Hazelton, Pennsylvania ordinances regarding illegal aliens were unconstitutional. The ordinances, which had been enjoined by a federal court before taking effect, were designed to keep illegal aliens out of the town by penalizing employers who employed them and landlords who rented to them. The court found that the ordinance conflicted with federal immigration laws and therefore violated the Supremacy Clause. The ordinances operated in part through the sanction of suspending the business license of any person or entity who hired a worker not authorized to work in the U.S.
The court explained that the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 (“IRCA”), the federal law that first prohibited the employment of undocumented workers, was carefully designed to minimize the burdens imposed on both employers (who did not want to be involved in the enforcement of federal immigration laws) and on authorized workers, who might erroneously be perceived as illegal aliens and discriminated against. Accordingly, IRCA limited the types of complaints against employers that the government would investigate, the measures that employers would have to take to assure that workers are authorized to work in the U.S., and the workers to which it would apply (IRCA applies to employees only, not to independent contractors). Congress also included an anti-discrimination provision in IRCA to reduce the burden imposed on authorized workers.