SMALL TOWN AMERICA FIGHTS INVASION
Determined Hazleton, Pa. Mayor Takes on America’s Biggest Lobbies
By Mark Anderson
The city government of Hazleton, Pennsylvania—determined to uphold the rule of law and combat an illegal alien problem caused by the federal government’s general failure to fully protect the nation’s borders—is taking on America’s open-borders organizations in a federal court case sparked by an ACLU lawsuit against the city.
Early last week, a U.S. District Court judge in Scranton began hearing the case, Lozano v. City of Hazleton, at the William J. Nealon Federal Building.
Last year, AFP interviewed Hazleton Mayor Louis J. Barletta after the town government in the summer enacted an ordinance package, known as the Illegal Immigration Relief Act. It’s designed to enforce the law against those who employ and rent to illegal aliens in Hazleton, a city of 30,000 located in northeastern Pennsylvania.
Barletta, busy in court, could not be reached for comment as this AFP edition went to press.
There is every indication that Hazleton’s local laws are not racially motivated and are designed only to maintain law and order with respect to U.S. immigration regulations, which are inconsistently enforced, a circumstance which leaves localities such as Hazleton with little choice but to take up the slack and enact local laws.
Still, the well-bankrolled American Civil Liberties Union and some Hispanic groups filed the lawsuit, seeking to have the ordinance package overturned on the grounds of alleged civil rights and constitutional violations.
The growing group, You Don’t Speak for Me, consisting of Hispanics who came to America legally and don’t agree with Latino open-border advocates who talk as if all Hispanics are of the same opinion on immigration matters, went on record in favor of Barletta.
The group includes Claudia Spencer, a high-profile Latino woman whose father in Mexico taught her that America is a good country and that it’s wrong for Mexicans to take advantage of the United States by skipping the border and living off the fat of the land.
How Hazleton fares in this contentious court case likely will have important ramifications for local and state governments throughout the nation. Several other cities, including those in Arizona, California, Missouri, Pennsylvania, North Carolina and Georgia—not just border states—are reportedly looking into, or have enacted, measures like Hazleton’s. For example, according to a news account posted at smalltowndefenders.com, a web site created by Hazleton supporters, the Payson, Ariz., town council is slated to vote on a business license ordinance requiring license applicants to sign an affidavit pledging to confirm the immigration status of all employees.
Any business owner hiring undocumented workers could be fined up to $20,000 and lose his license. If approved, the ordinance could become law by mid-April.
Barletta himself took the stand at the trial last week. City Council President Joseph Yanuzzi also testified. Both were subjected to lengthy questioning. A Wilkes-Barre Citizens Voice local newspaper account reported that ACLU attorney Witold J. Walczak, who successfully argued
the 2005 Dover, Del., intelligent design case, “referred to Mr. Barletta unfavorably several times during his opening argument, calling him ‘opportunistic.’ ”
Notably, as AFP reported in a brief update in the March 19, 2007, edition, even the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is supporting this lawsuit on the side of the ACLU, an ambiguous organization that, from the point of view of social conservatives and strict-interpretation constitutionalists, is often freedom’s friend when it comes to privacy and surveillance issues but turns around and defends pornography while denying Christians their First Amendment rights.
The ACLU operates under the secular assumption that all religious ideas and icons have no public purpose, even though Christian scholar David Barton has exhaustively documented the Christian leanings and deeply held beliefs of most of America’s key founders and their conviction that government, while it should not favor any one denomination, ought to operate on the basis of certain eternal religious principles that uphold the nation’s moral foundation—a key ingredient to maintaining real freedom.
As AFP reported in the fall of 2006, Barletta, in promoting this ordinance package and winning City Council approval to enact it, “drew a line in the sand and started an earthquake” because he’s fed up with what he sees as the negative effects illegal immigration has had on his working class town.
Barletta promoted the new measures to combat the growing problems associated with unchecked population growth, much of which is the result of droves of people sneaking across the border and hiding out in communities around the United States.
Barletta’s three-ordinance package was passed 4-1 by the council as follows, for the record:
The first part consists of the City of Hazleton Illegal Immigration Relief Act Ordinance, which penalizes landlords and businesses of all types who rent to, and hire, illegal aliens.
The second section is the Landlord-Tenant Registration Ordinance, which mandates that all renters, regardless of their nationality or ethnic background, register with the city so landlords have a way of monitoring the identity and legal status of would-be renters.
The third component requires English to be Hazleton’s official language. Barletta spells out his unflinching stance in a statement posted at the web site, smalltowndefenders.com. It says, in part:
“Some come to this country and refuse to learn English, creating a language barrier for city employees. Others enter the country illegally and use government services by not paying taxes or by committing crime on our streets, further draining resources here in Hazleton. Recent crimes—such as a high-profile murder, the discharge of a gun at a crowded city playground [in Hazleton], and drug busts—have involved illegal immigrants.
Some of those allegedly involved in those crimes were detained by other law enforcement officials over the years, but were somehow allowed to remain in this country. They eventually migrated into Hazleton, where they helped create a sense of fear in the good, hardworking residents who
are here legally.”
The U.S. government needs to secure the “airports, seaports and north and south borders” for the sake of national security, Barletta told AFP last year. If that happened, small towns would not be forced to pass these types of measures and would not have waste precious resources defending them in court.
Readers who would like to support Barletta can do so by writing to
the City of Hazleton Legal Defense Fund, c/o Mayor Lou Barletta, City Hall, 40 N. Church St., Hazleton, Pa. 18201.
(Issue #13, March 26, 2007)