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Court lets block of immigrant housing laws stand; takes inmate's case
Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON — Two municipalities that tried to make it illegal for people who lack legal immigration status to rent housing were rebuffed March 3 by the Supreme Court.

Without comment, the court let stand lower court rulings that blocked ordinances in Farmers Branch, Texas, and Hazleton, Pa., that required scrutiny of the immigration status of applicants for rental housing, with harsh penalties for the tenants and landlords for renting to people who couldn't prove their legal status.

Both laws were overturned as overstepping the boundaries of federal authority. The Supreme Court ruled in 2012 that key parts of Arizona's S.B. 1070, a tough immigration enforcement law, were unconstitutional because they pre-empted the role of the federal government to manage immigration.

The 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals twice ruled that Hazleton's ordinance -- which also had provisions blocking employment for immigrants without permission to work -- is unconstitutional. Farmers Branch's law was overturned by the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Neither ordinance ever took effect.

Also March 3, the court agreed to hear the religious rights-based case of an inmate in Arkansas who wants to be allowed to grow a short beard in accord with his Muslim beliefs.

Gregory Holt, also known as Abdul Maalik, submitted a handwritten appeal to the court because he had no attorney. The Supreme Court will appoint one to assist him with the case.

His petition argues that the Arkansas prison policy banning beards is in conflict with the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act, a 2000 federal law passed in response to cases of inmates' claims that their religious rights were not being protected.

The case will likely be heard in the court's term that begins in October. 

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