Any bets on how soon all this becomes national news?????? Starting with Lou Dobbs probably.......
Posted on Fri, Jun. 16, 2006
Hazleton nears law on illegals
Council passes first reading of ordinance calling for hiring and rental regulations, and English as city’s official language.
Plan to ban illegal immigrants divides Hazleton Barletta’s ordinance gets its first approval from city council
BY NICHOLE DOBO
HAZLETON — When Mayor Lou Barletta asked a Hispanic man at a city council meeting if he is “legal,” the man lifted his head and said this:
“My name is Leo Cordero.”
“I live at 659 North Locust Street.”
“Social Security number ...”
Cordero was cut off by a round of applause from a crowd divided on the mayor’s proposal that would ban illegal immigrants from living in Hazleton, fine businesses that “aid and abet” those immigrants and remove all foreign language documents from city hall.
The ordinance passed its first reading 4-1 Thursday. It must pass two more readings before it goes into effect.
The crowd of nearly 100 residents packed the council chambers, forcing some to stand. Five residents urged the council not to pass the ordinance and two asked for a few revisions. One man agreed totally with the ordinance, suggesting signs saying “This is an English-only town” be posted at city limits.
At issue was whether or not all immigrants — including those the city considers illegal — have rights and if the ordinance was directed at the city’s swelling Hispanic population.
“Citizen or not a citizen, we have basic rights,” Cordero said. “Nobody is criminal until you find that person to be criminal.”
Barletta urged the crowd several times that he was not directing the ordinance at the city’s Hispanic population. Many times the mayor got considerable applause when reiterating his intention to drive away every person he believes to be an “illegal immigrant.”
“This ordinance does not roll back the welcome mat to those who are legally in the United States,” he said, reading from a prepared speech. “ ... Rather, this ordinance seeks to stem the flow of illegal immigrants into Hazleton. They are not welcome here.”
The city has seen a large growth in the last few years, mainly due to Hispanic immigration. Previously, the mayor estimated more than 25 percent of the city is Hispanic. In 2001, the city had three Hispanic businesses; today, there are more than 60.
Anna Arias, a member of the Governors Commission on Latino Affairs, told the mayor — who she said used to be a personal friend — she did not believe the ordinance was not directed at the Hispanic community because they are the biggest immigrant group in the area.
Arias said it was “very disturbing” that the mayor would seek to remove all Spanish documents from city hall, as part of the ordinance’s intent to make the city’s “official” language English.
“We are also taxpayers,” she said.
Then, Arias asked for permission to address the mayor directly, which was granted.
“Are you planing to continue your political career?”
“Well, I haven’t announced anything ...” Barletta began.
“I hope you are not,” Arias said, turning to look directly at the mayor. “This will haunt you.”
To which Joseph Yannuzzi, council president, pounded his gavel said Arias was “out of order” and told her she could no longer speak.
Council seemed roundly in favor of the measure. Councilman Robert Nilles suggested they “add teeth” to the ordinance by having city hall hand out “permits” that would allow persons to rent if they could prove they are legally in the country.
After the public comment session, Councilwoman Evelyn Graham told the crowd about her ancestor’s history.
Graham said her father came from Russia “legally” and “lived out of a garbage can” before going to work in the coal mines. When she asked her parents to teach her Russian as a child, their “reply was no.” And Graham is glad they said that because “they knew I could not succeed in America speaking Russian.”
Natalia Gomez, a Hazleton professional, said she believes it is in the best interest of everyone to learn about cultures and to remember the area’s history of immigration issues, alluding to the Lattimer massacre, an incident near Hazleton when a sheriff and his crew killed 19 unarmed immigrant miners.
She urged council and the mayor to scrap the ordinance.
“No one will be able to alleviate the tension and chaos you are creating,” she said.