SPLC Lauds Rejection of Anti-Immigrant Ordinance

The Southern Poverty Law Center on Tuesday praised the Avon Park, Fla., city council for rejecting an ordinance designed to punish undocumented immigrants as well as businesses that hire them and landlords who rent to them.

"The city council made the right call," said Mary Bauer, director of the Center's Immigrant Justice Project. "We hope other communities considering such harsh, unconstitutional measures will follow suit."

Modeled on an ordinance recently adopted by the Hazelton, Pa., council, the proposal would have denied business permits to companies that hire undocumented workers, fined landlords $1,000 for renting to them and made English the town's official language, removing Spanish from all city documents and signs.

In a July 10 letter (PDF), Bauer told council members the ordinance exceeded the city's authority and was pre-empted by federal immigration law. In addition, its prohibition against renting to undocumented immigrants would have subjected both the city and local landlords to liability under the Fair Housing Act, which forbids discrimination in renting based on race, color, religion, sex, familial status or national origin.

"The effect of the ordinance would have been to subject all Latinos in the town to potential discrimination in housing, because landlords are not equipped to interpret complex immigration laws," Bauer said.

Palm Bay in Brevard County is another city among a handful around the country considering similar ordinances.