Clayton, MO – The St. Louis suburb of Valley Park will not be allowed to implement or enforce a new immigration law, for the time being. On Monday, a judge in St. Louis County imposed a temporary restraining order.
The ordinance, among other things, makes it a crime for landlords to rent property to illegal immigrants. There will be a hearing on the matter on November 1, where Judge Barbara Wallace will decide whether to make the injunction permanent.
Dozens of Hispanics have moved out of the city since the law passed in July in St. louis-area town, according to residents and Hispanic advocacy groups.
The case in Valley Park has gained national attention as the U.S. Congress struggles to fashion a comprehensive overhaul of immigration laws. A similar law passed in Hazelton, Penn. restricts illegal immigration; it also is under legal challenge.
A group of Valley Park landlords sued the city, claiming the law is unconstitutional. Their attorney, Kathy Wisniewski, told Wallace a temporary restraining order needed to go into effect immediately to protect landlords who are losing business because of the new law.
"There are people whose lives and livelihoods have been affected by this measure," Wisniewski said.
Valley Park City Attorney Eric Martin argued that the city had not prosecuted anyone under the law since it was passed. He said City Council members were considering amendments to the measure that might satisfy some of the landlords' complaints about it.
Wallace said she was concerned with some wording in the law, specifically with the fact that it does not define the term "illegal immigrant."
"There are kind of some big holes in this ordinance," Wallace said.
The Archdiocese of St. Louis has helped relocate 21 Hispanic families that left Valley Park after the ordinance passed, said Hector Molina, director of the Archdiocese's Hispanic Ministry. Molina said the ordinance has increased discrimination in Valley Park because the law does not lay out specific descriptions of an illegal immigrant.
"That's led police to simply approach people of color because they assume that those people are illegal immigrants," he said.