Monday, March 12, 2007

Hazleton's Immigration Crackdown goes on Trial

Months after the town of Hazleton, Pennsylvania passed a series of anti-immigrant regulations, the legality of these laws is finally being challenged in court. The NPR story linked here discusses the major issues at stake: is it possible for a town to regulate immigration? The ACLU argues that immigration control is the responsibility of the federal government, and that Hazleton's ordinances, which would punish landlords and employers who knowingly rent to or employ illegal immigrants, are unconstitutional.

The most disturbing aspect of this report is its preamble, where Jennifer Ludden summarizes Mayor Barletta's narrative of what he believes has happened in Hazleton. According to Barletta, the town of Hazleton was once a small-town idyll that has been disrupted by Latinos who he believes are responsible for the town's crime and economic problems. It's interesting that Barletta ignore's the fact that Hazleton was a dying and depopulating coal town before the immigrants moved in and initiated a remarkable revitalization, including new businesses and a tax base.

The other problematic discussed here is that Hazleton's ordinances encourage discrimination against all Latinos, many of whom are NOT undocumented, and therefore have every right to live in Hazleton if they wish. The report notes that many documented Latinos have packed up and left town because they do not want to live in what has become a hostile community toward immigrants.

Many other small communities across the nation are closely watching events in Hazleton. If the courts uphold their ordinances, many others plan to enact similar local laws.

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