(by Fred Lucas, CNSNews.com) – After the small town of Hazleton, Pa., experienced a stabbing, a drug bust and a few absentee landlords with as many as nine residents living in a single unit, Mayor Louis Barletta said he lay awake one night and thought, “I’ve lost my city.”
The common thread running through many of the problems facing the once-sleepy town of about 23,000 residents is that the offenses involved illegal immigrants.
Before 2000, Barletta recalled, the town averaged one murder every seven years. After an influx of illegal immigrants, there have been three murders in the last 18 months.
The problems prompted the mayor to enact new policies, including an ordinance to punish businesses hiring illegal workers, punish landlords who rent to illegal immigrants, and declare English the town’s official language.
Hazleton’s policies inspired Starletta Hairston, a former council member in Beaufort County, S.C., who saw similar problems in her community. She pushed for the enactment of county policies in 2005 to deny licenses to businesses that employ illegal aliens and to deny business licenses to illegal immigrants.
“When the federal government drops the ball on enforcing immigration laws, it’s up to the local governments to protect the taxpayers,” Hairston said.
Barletta and Hairston were joined Wednesday by Virginia State Del. Jackson H. Miller at a forum sponsored by the government watchdog group, Judicial Watch, which is examining what local governments can do about illegal immigration.
In 2000, Beaufort County had 8,000 illegal immigrants, four times as many as it had in 1990. By 2005, the number grew to 12,000, Hairston said. The local hospital spent $12 million in 2005 taking care of illegal immigrants in the county, while it costs $60 per day to incarcerate those who commit crimes.
“The costs just increase and increase and increase,” she said, adding that the matter is not about race but about the process and respect for the law.
“The current immigration process is a flagrant disregard of the naturalization process,” she said.
The American Civil Liberties Union and pro-immigrant groups have opposed the actions taken by local governments.
In Hazleton, the ACLU and Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund sued the city on behalf of the illegal immigrants, alleging the laws are unconstitutional. The suit is pending.
“These laws, grounded in racial animus, are barbaric,” Foster Maer, an attorney with the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund, said in a written statement in December. “Their intention is to force immigrants into homelessness and destitution.”
Enforcing the law at the local level can be difficult, said Miller, who as a former Manassas city council member helped push through an ordinance to prevent multiple people from cramming into a home, only to see the law rescinded when the U.S. Department of Justice and Housing and Urban Development challenged it.
“Because we’re a small city, Manassas can’t afford to defend a multi-million lawsuit,” Miller said. “The federal government is not enforcing its own laws and works against us when we try to do something about it.”
Miller said he is very disappointed with proposals coming out of Washington, such as a path to citizenship and a guest worker program, which he called “a farce.”
He said that politicians and citizens are afraid to get involved and stand up for enforcing immigration laws.
“I’ve read editorials that say I don’t like people with brown skin. I didn’t like it, but I suck it up and move forward because it’s the right thing to do for the community,” Miller said.
All original CNSNews.com material, copyright 1998-2007 Cybercast News Service. Reprinted here with permission from CNSNews. Visit the website at CNSNews.com.
1. a) What is the population of Hazleton, Pennsylvania?
b) What does Hazelton Mayor Louis Barlettta say is common to various problems in town, including an increased crime rate?
2. How has the murder rate in Hazleton changed after an influx of illegal immigrants?
3. a) What has Hazleton Mayor Barlettta done in an attempt to solve problems caused by illegal immigrants?
b) Does the Mayor intend these policies to target legal immigrants?
c) What result do you think he is attempting to get from these policies?
d) Do you think the mayor and other local officials who enact these types of policies hate legal immigrants? Explain your answer.
4. a) What actions did Starletta Hairston, a council member in Beaufort County, SC take after reading about Hazleton?
b) Why did she do so?
c) What do you think Ms. Hairston means when she says “it’s up to the local governments to protect the taxpayers?” Protect them from what? Do you agree?
5. a) Who sued the city of Hazleton over the new policies implemented by Mayor Barletta?
b) Should illegal immigrants have constitutional rights? Explain your answer.
c) Re-read para. 13. Do you agree with Mr. Maer’s assertion about the mayor of Hazleton? Explain your answer.
6. a) The federal government does not do enough to enforce immigration laws. Should all laws be enforced, or just certain laws (e.g. speeding, not wearing a seatbelt, not paying your taxes, selling drugs)? Explain your answer.
b) Are citizens allowed to choose which laws they obey?
c) What should you do if you think a law is unjust in a democratic society?
Daily “Answers” emails are provided for Daily News Articles, Tuesday’s World Events and Friday’s News Quiz.