The trial against Hazleton, Pennsylvania's Illegal Immigration Relief Act (IIRA) brought by supporters of illegal aliens, the ACLU, Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund and supported by the US Chamber of Commerce and US Council of Catholic Bishops started yesterday with both sides arguing their points. The case is expected to last two weeks and there are cities across the country that are sitting on the edge of their seats awaiting the outcome so that they can implement their own IIRA laws.
Vic Walczak, ACLU
The ACLU Lawyers opened the trial by painting illegal aliens as the saviors of Hazleton pushing the city population up from 23,000 in 2002 to currently 30,000 “They had established roots in the community, paid property tax, worked hard and lived clean,” said Vic Walczak, Pennsylvania legal director of the ACLU.
Mayor Lou Barletta
Hazleton Mayor Lou Barletta tells a different story though, showing increased murder, violent crime and a drain on social services in the city. Last year the city passed the IIRA to make it illegal to hire or rent to illegal aliens in an effort to crack down on illegal immigration in the city.
The Act received a temporary restraining order thus suspending implementation by Federal Judge James M. Munley in November, 2006 and 2 weeks later he extended the order by 120 days.
Hazleton Standard Speaker
Dr. Agapito Lopez, a Hazleton eye surgeon [and head of the Hazleton Latino Association - Digger] the first witness called, said the act divided the city, cooled cordial relations with his neighbors and frightened Latinos.
“They fear they may be unjustly evicted,” said Lopez, who said he received three pieces of hate mail after opposing the act.
Yes, the witnesses testified that "Latinos" were scared. A funny choice of words since legal Latinos would have nothing to fear since they have proper documents and are legally here. I'm thinking they should have just come out and said the law against businesses renting to and hiring illegal aliens scared the illegal aliens and made them contemplate actually leaving the area, which was the acts intent.
A little reminder on who Dr. Agapito Lopez is. He's the head of the Hazleton Latino Association who said back in July 2006 "We will never assimilate". Claiming to be like immigrants that have come to America before, this group refuses to assimilate and has put their race before the country they claim to have adopted when they took the citizenship oath.
These are the types of people the ACLU is representing this complaint for.
The ACLU lawyer's opening statement made a snarky play on words saying that Hazleton is not A Tale of Two Cities, but "two tales of a city". Of course the ACLU knows more about Hazleton than the mayor and city council and according to him, his tale is the correct one.
“The two tales are irreconcilable.” Walczak said.
Walczak said the act makes Hazleton the first city in the United States to attempt to exclude illegal immigrants from working or renting, but takes a cue from efforts to exclude other newcomers during previous waves of immigration in the nation’s history.
The act requires tenants to show proof of legal residence or citizenship.
“Neither is required by federal law,” Walczak said.
And this is exactly where the ACLU case falls apart in my opinion. Just because there is no federal law requiring proof of residency does not mean that a city cannot enact and enforce its own laws requiring that proof. Their other argument is that verifying proof of residency is a federal matter.
He said the act is driven by complaints so vengeful neighbors can file complaints and face no penalty for lying.
This argument by the ACLU lawyer is just ridiculous. "Vengeful neighbors". He is basically saying that this is a witch hunt on the order of Salem.
And here comes the main argument that I feel the ACLU will drive home over and over...
Where Hazleton claims to have been overrun, Walczak said the city’s defenders cannot say how many illegal immigrants live there. He said the city lacked crime statistics involving illegal immigrants when proposing the act in June 2006.
It cannot say how much is paid to teachers in Hazleton schools to teach English as a Second Language for children of legal residents, Walczak said.
And why can't the city show these statistics? Because of laws forced through by proponents of illegal aliens like the ACLU who have made sure that these statistics cannot be collected by hospitals, schools and prisons. Yes, they are basically saying "Thanks to laws we have backed you can't even produce statistics for proving your case. Wasn't that smart of us to think ahead?"
It really is a travesty that the American Civil Liberties Union would stand so far from supporting real American's civil liberties of being able to go about daily businesses without their civil liberties being invaded and destroyed, their schools and hospitals being overcrowded, crime increasing and their taxes being wasted at the hands of foreigners in our country illegally, but that is what this group has declined to over the decades. It's sad really.
Kris Kobach, Hazleton
Hazleton lawyer Kris Kobach, put forth how crime has increased in Hazleton over the years. From 1994-2001 there were no murders in Hazleton. In 2001 there was one murder and from 2005-2006 there were 5 murders all committed by illegal aliens
. Just last year there were 19 arrests of illegal aliens for crimes ranging from murder to rape to violent assault and a major illegal alien gang drug bust last year involving MS-13
and the Latin Kings.
Kobach also argued that there are already federal programs in place to verify legal status for the police, social agencies and employee verification thus that negates the ACLU's argument that verification is a federal issue.
A number of witnesses, such as business owners the Lechugas said their business has been adversely affected since the Act was approved even though it was suspended by the judge. They said that their business folded because "Latinos" refused to shop in Hazleton because they were scared and also when police pulled up, as they do in every city in this country, word would quickly spread around the area.
However lead Hazleton attorney, Henry “Hank” Mahoney shot this down. In cross examination Mahoney produced tax filings which showed that the business was losing money before the act was even proposed in May 2006, that the Lechugas also had not paid their mortgage on the building for more than a year before the act passed and that the police presence was requested by Latino businesses in the area because of increased crime.
Kobach argued that all of these witness testimonies are premature in showing the impact of the act because the act hasn't even been in effect yet and that this case is a simple argument of constitutionality.
So what happened to the Lechugas?
Their house is up for sheriff’s sale and the Lechugas, who entered the United States illegally but became legal residents through the 1987 federal amnesty, are moving to Arkansas, where some of their children are staying with an aunt.
“This has been terrible … (there is) separation in the family,” Luis Lechuga said.
He said his daughter, about to graduate from Hazleton Area High School, transferred to Arkansas after being harassed for her Mexican heritage.
Sure, the only reason you moved and your family is separated is because your daughter was harassed for being Mexican. How about taking responsibility for your business failing?
Be sure to check out the recap of the other days of coverage in my Hazleton Archive
Hazleton needs funding. You can donate to their legal defense fund at Small Town Defenders. Their case could set the stage for reduced illegal immigration throughout this country, so donate today!