Gray v. City of Valley Park, Missouri
IRLI successfully represented the City of Valley Park, Missouri in a lawsuit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF) challenging an ordinance (drafted with IRLI’s assistance) requiring businesses to use a federal worker verification program known as E-Verify in order to maintain a business license.
In an unambiguous 57-page decision handed down on January 31, 2008, U.S. District Judge E. Richard Webber ruled that local governments have a right to take action against illegal immigration by suspending or denying business licenses to employers who knowingly hire illegal aliens. Gray v. City of Valley Park, 2008 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 7238 (E.D. Mo. Jan. 31, 2008). Judge Webber granted the City of Valley Park, Missouri’s, request for summary judgment in dismissing the case. His ruling rejected every one of the arguments made by the plaintiffs in this suit.
In his precedent setting decision, Judge Webber ruled that carefully crafted ordinances, such as the one enacted in Valley Park, a St. Louis suburb, are not preempted by the federal government’s exclusive right to regulate immigration. Rather such ordinances constitute the normal function of local governments to regulate the terms under which business may be conducted in their jurisdiction, and that federal laws prohibiting the employment of illegal aliens encourage local governments to act in this manner.
In upholding the lower court decision, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit affirmed that communities and local municipalities are within their rights to pass ordinances requiring businesses to sign up for E-verify on pain of losing their business licenses. Gray v. City of Valley Park, 567 F.3d 976 (8th Cir. 2009). In reviewing the facts, the appellate court was puzzled as to why the case was even brought. Nor did the court understand why the plaintiffs claimed the ordinance pertains to the hiring of Hispanic workers, when in fact, said the court, the ordinance in question “addresses the employment of illegal aliens, not Hispanics.”