Saturday, July 15, 2006

In Senator Specter's backyard

Impatient with stalled immigration reform in Washington, Mayor Lou Barletta of Hazelton, Pennsylvania signed a city ordinance on Friday that punishes people who do business with illegal immigrants or provide them with jobs or housing.

The regulation says that the townspeople are suffering from "the debilitating effects on their economic and social well being imposed by the influx of illegal aliens." Barletta, a Republican, has said he proposed the law to address crime, school crowding, hospital costs and demands for city services that he attributes to an influx of illegal immigrants in the northeastern Pennsylvania town of about 31,000 residents.

The Hazleton City Council is set to approve a companion measure requiring all tenants to register with the city and prove their legal residency. The ordinance will fine landlords $1,000 per day for each illegal immigrant living on their properties. Taken together, these measures are the toughest in the country.

Joseph Turner, who proposed a similar bill in San Bernandino, CA told the New York Times that ''It's looking like we're going to see a tidal wave of local governments stepping up to the plate on handling illegal immigration on the local level. And I believe it's going to put enormous pressure on the federal government to finally act.'' At least 57 immigration-related bills have been passed by U.S. state legislatures in 2006, according to the National Conference on State Legislatures.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania and the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund, plan to sue Hazleton in federal court. Lee Llambelis, legal director of the Fund, told the NY Times that the law pits neighbor against neighbor and only serves to heighten tension with Hispanics in the town,'' she said. The Times also reports that about 30 percent of Hazleton's population is Latino, up from around 5 percent in 2000.

ACTION STEP: Mayor Lou Barletta claims that he has received 8,000 e-mails from all over the country in support of his new ordinance. Please send an e-mail to or and let him know that you disagree. You can also call him at 570.459.4910, 570.459.4900 or 570.459.4947 or write to him at the Mayor's Office, City Hall, Hazleton, PA 18201. [Note: This contact information has been checked for accuracy but the mayor's office may be swamped with input from the public.]

Tell the mayor that you disagree with his actions and that it sets a bad precedent and is bad publicity for his city. Tell him that immigrants contribute to his town's economy and many will be registered voters soon...