JUNE 19, 2006
Frustrated that the federal government won’t stem illegal immigration, many cities across the county have taken matters into their own hands and Hazelton Pennsylvania is the latest example. The city of about 31,000 has passed a tough illegal immigration measure that will revoke the business license of companies that employ illegal immigrants, impose fines on landlords who rent to them and make English the city’s official language.
Other municipalities – in California, Idaho and New Hampshire – have proposed measures that crack down on illegal immigration but Hazelton’s is the nation’s toughest so far. Mayor Lou Barletta said high-profile crimes committed by illegal immigrants inspired him to propose the legislation which was approved 4-1 by the city’s council.
In the last few months a man was gunned down, a 14-year-old fired a gun at a park and there was a big drug bust. Additionally, Pennsylvania crime reports reveal that crimes committed by Hispanics have increased 162% since 2000. During the same period, the city’s Hispanic population has increased nearly 700%.
Mayor Barletta says illegal immigrants are destroying Hazelton and, in an open letter to his constituents, explains that the new law is not a racist measure that rolls back the welcome mat to those who are legally in the United States because the country was built on the backs of legal immigrants. He goes on to point out that illegal immigration is a drain on city resources that destroys neighborhoods and diminishes overall quality of life.
Advocates of illegal immigration are, of course, outraged and encouraging legal action against Hazelton. One group, the National Council of La Raza, which refers to itself as the largest Latino advocacy organization in the U.S., believes the law will prompt a civil rights lawsuit since landlords in Hazelton are going to shut their doors to anyone who may look or sound Latino. The door will immediately open when they prove legal U.S. residency, however.
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