The Militant (logo)  
   Vol. 70/No. 28           July 31, 2006  
Pennsylvania city approves
anti-immigrant measure
HAZLETON, Pennsylvania, July 13—Hundreds of people from throughout the region gathered outside city hall here July 12-13, protesting an anti-immigrant ordinance proposed by Mayor Louis Barletta. The mayor says his goal is to make Hazleton “one of the most difficult places in the U.S. for illegal immigrants.”

Barletta told a U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee hearing held in Philadelphia July 5 that his ordinance was needed because “many illegals were in the county solely to commit crimes” and were “draining the resources of Small Town America.”

The City Council passed the measure tonight by a 4-1 margin.

The council limited speakers on the Ordinance to six each for those favoring and opposing the measure. Attendance was also sharply limited, leaving hundreds outside to protest.

The measure, parts of which were rewritten after being voted on by the council a few weeks ago, denies a business license to companies that “aid and abet” undocumented immigrants by hiring them, creates a new city agency that must review residency documents and grant a permit to anyone seeking to rent an apartment in the city, and establishes English as the official language of Hazleton.

City officials announced after the meeting that the new office responsible for issuing renters’ permits will be an “English-only” office and will not provide translators.

Even though the mayor admitted that he had not received any threats, Barletta made a point of announcing that he was wearing a bulletproof vest and was accompanied by a special police detail.

Anna Arias and Agapito López led opposition to the ordinance. Both are members of the Pennsylvania Governor’s Advisory Committee on Latino Affairs.

Arias told the council that the ordinance was “discriminatory, bigoted and racist.” She said undocumented immigrants are “very important for this country.”

López testified that “illegal immigrants” have been coming to this country since the day of Mayflower. “The English didn’t have permission to come,” he said.

“African-Americans especially did not ask to come to this country,” he pointed out. Latinos, Lopez added, will not “convert to Anglos.”

“We will acculturate, we will adapt to your rules, we will follow your laws, but we will never assimilate,” López told the crowd. Latino immigrants, he said, plan to travel back and forth to their country of origin, making it essential to retain use of Spanish.

As the meeting progressed, hundreds protesting outside held signs and candles, chanting “Sí, se puede” (Yes, we can).

A small counterdemonstration across the street baited the supporters of immigrant rights. They sang, “Hit the Road, Jack” and yelled, “We want ICE,” referring to the Immigration and Customs Enforcement division of Homeland Security. Some told the Times-Leader that they were angered by the “large quantity of illegal immigrants” they claim work at the Excel meatpacking plant in the city.

“Those are the actions of people who are afraid of something,” immigrant rights protester Erica Cardenas told the media.

“If they are not legal, give them the tools they need to become legal,” said Marjorie Cavanaugh, another protester, one of many who were not Latinos or immigrants.

Osborne Hart, Socialist Workers Party candidate for Pennsylvania governor, joined the protests. He was congratulated by a number in the crowd for the statement issued by his campaign opposing the Hazleton ordinance and advocating immediate legalization of all immigrants as a life-and-death question for the labor movement and all working people.

“Hart, 53, a Germantown warehouse worker, spoke to us from Hazleton, where he was in a candlelight vigil against that city’s anti-immigrant mayor,” Gar Joseph, a political columnist for the Philadelphia Daily News, reported in the July 14 edition of the paper. “He says he sees progress, calling the nationwide May 1 rallies for immigrant rights ‘the first general strike in U.S. history.’”

The ordinance adopted tonight will go into effect in 60 days. Protesters said they will use this time to challenge the anti-immigrant measure, both legally and in action.

City authorities are now pushing similar measures in Escondido and San Bernardino, California; Sandwich, Massachusetts; and Avon Park and Palm Bay, Florida.
Related articles:
30,000 march in Chicago for legalization of immigrants
U.S. rulers work toward new policy on immigration  
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