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Lou Barletta, mayor of Hazelton, Pa., drew a line in the sand and started an earthquake. Fed up with what he sees as the negative effects illegal immigration has had on his town, Barletta successfully promoted new measures that combat the growing problems associated with unchecked population growth, much of which is the result of people sneaking across the border and hiding out in communities around the United States.

In an exclusive interview with American Free Press on Oct. 11, Barletta, 50, discussed his three-ordinance package, which was passed 4-1 this year by the City Council. The first initiative, called the City of Hazelton Illegal Immigration Relief Act Ordinance, penalizes landlords and businesses of all types who rent to, and hire, illegal aliens.

The second, called the Landlord-Tenant Registration Ordinance, 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.

And the third, known as the English as the Official Language Ordinance, requires English to be Hazelton’s official language.

Under the new measure, the city will be able to suspend the business licenses of employers who hire illegals. As a strong disincentive for businesses to hire illegals, the applicable ordinance gives employees the right to sue their employer for up to three times the wages lost while business operations are suspended.

“Why should we penalize legal American workers?” said Barletta.

The landlord-tenant ordinance requires all would-be renters to obtain a permit at city hall. If a background check cannot verify or confirm that the would-be renter is a U.S. citizen or legal alien, then that person would be prohibited from renting in Hazelton.

As noted in the third measure, English will be upheld as the official language of Hazelton so natural-born or naturalized citizens are not hit with wasteful spending in the form of printing city information in any language except English.

“We’re really just trying to protect the English language,” Barletta told AFP. People can speak their native tongue wherever and whenever they want, he said. But official city contracts and other documents will be printed in English only.

Barletta, a Hazelton native who’s in his second term, has started a trend that is spreading fast, giving opponents the jitters. He is confident that the ordinances constitute a fair and enforceable way to weed out illegal aliens who are swarming from the border states into the U.S. interior.

Hazelton, population 31,000, is in northeastern Pennsylvania. Since the 2000 census, when the population was 23,000, there has indeed been significant growth.

Barletta said that the Latino population accounts for most of it, whether they are illegals or legals. Hazelton was the first city in the nation to pass an ordinance like this. However, since then, there are a significant number of cities that have passed or are close to passing this very same ordinance, Barletta said.

“We’ve counted over 40 cities,” he told AFP, while stressing that Hazelton strictly deals with tenants, landlords and businesses regarding illegal aliens. City law enforcement limits itself to arresting and detaining illegals and assumes the federal government will do its constitutionally mandated job of securing the nation’s borders by enforcing immigration laws and handling the necessary deportations and other actions.

Barletta spells out his stance in a statement posted at the web site, 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 Hazelton. Recent crimes—such as a high-profile murder, the discharge of a gun at a crowded city playground [in Hazelton], 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 Hazelton, where they helped create a sense of fear in the good, hardworking residents who are here legally.

With a growing problem and a limited city budget, Barletta said he could not sit back any longer and allow such problems to continue.

Since Barletta announced his initiatives, he has been under assault from groups such as the American Civil Liberties Union and Latino special interest groups.

Despite this, he said cities in California, Missouri, Pennsylvania, North Carolina and Georgia—certainly not just border states—have requested copies of these ordinances and are looking at initiating similar measures. The U.S. government needs to secure the “airports, seaports and north and south borders” for the sake of national security, he said.

“I think this shows the seriousness of the problem,” said Barletta. “We’re 2,000 miles away from the southern border.”

(Issue #43, October 23, 2006)

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Updated October 15, 2006