Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Data? We don't need no stinking data

The afternoon session of Day III of the Hazleton anti-immigrant trial in Scranton featured Mayor Lou Barletta on the stand all afternoon, and he spent much of that time explaining his understanding of the various ordinances the city passed to "make Hazleton the toughest city for illegal aliens in the country."

Vic started by using the language of the ordinance, which states the usual claims about the negative impact of undocumented immigrants on crime, schools, and public services. It became clear that there are no statistics on how often city services- be it fire, code enforcement, garbage collection, or others- are used for undocumented immigrants. Frustrated, Barletta responded.

"Here's what I do know," the mayor said. "Every time we send a code officer, every time we send a firefighter, every time we send a city official to deal with a situation with illegal immigrants it affects the city of Hazleton."

Vic's questions were yes and no questions, i.e. "Do you have data on how many fire calls were for illegal immigrants," so after the mayor attempted to pontificate a few times, Vic replied, "Mayor, can we agree that you've now made your speech?"

Barletta responded, "That's not a speech. Those are facts." Eventually, Judge Munley had to step in to explain to Barletta that yes and no answers suffice in response and a "brief explanation" would be allowed only "if necessary."

Since last summer, the mayor has been talking about the impact of undocumented immigrants on Hazleton's schools, of which the city has no jurisdiction, as Barletta admitted under oath. He estimated that 15 or 16 municipalities make up the Hazleton Area School District and noted that he does not know how many students are "illegal aliens."

But he stated that an increase in the English as a Second Language (ESL) budget to more than $1 million this year is a sign that illegal immigrants have increased in the area. Via questioning from Vic, the mayor admitted that legal immigrants also need ESL and agreed "that's a good thing" since he has been pushing for new immigrants to learn English.

Continuing on education, Vic asked if the mayor has data on average test scores at Hazleton schools since the ordinance states that illegal immigrants contribute to "failing schools" or if he knows if the school's current scores are higher or lower than three years ago. The mayor said he "read an article" in a local paper that quoted a school official who was concerned about test scores.

The mayor and his supporters have been hanging their hat on the impact that undocumented immigrants have on crime. Although crime statistics will be discussed in greater detail later in the week when the Hazleton chief of police takes the stand, Vic and Barletta explored the issue.

As revealed under questioning, an article in the Hazleton Standard Speaker cited 47 crimes committed by undocumented immigrants in "the greater Hazleton area" (the city, the borough of West Hazleton, and Hazle Township) in 2006.

According to the city police department, there were 1400 crimes in the city alone in 2006.

"I didn't need numbers," the mayor said. "That was given to you because you wanted numbers."

Vic also asked about the "287g process," which is a program of the federal government that trains state and local law enforcement to assist with immigration enforcement.

Although illegal immigrants are "destroying" Hazleton, as the mayor told the Philadelphia Inquirer in July of last year, the city has yet to sign up for the program, which came out in today's testimony. Barletta stated that the police chief is looking into that possibility.

The lawyer and the witness spent the late afternoon vetting the machinations of the ordinance and how it will function. Although his outward appearance was one of self-confidence, the mayor's own words suggested uncertainty on how the city will determine a person's status. At one point, he said that it would be done through the Department of Homeland Security, but 2 minutes later he stated that it would be done through the Department of Justice.

The city does not yet have a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with any federal agency to perform this task, and when Vic asked, "No one has told you that you're getting an MOU, is that correct," the mayor responded, "Not at this time."

In fact, the city only signed up to participate in the Basic Pilot Program as an employer in late October, three months after the passing of the first ordinance when city officials were stating that illegal immigrants were destroying the city. (The Basic Pilot Program is an electronic service run by the feds that employers may sign up for to verify an employee's status.)

Tomorrow Mayor Barletta will be back on the stand to face questioning from his own counsel. Before he testifies, though, the plaintiffs will call Professor Marc Rosenblum of the University of New Orleans, whose areas of expertise include political science and immigration.

Andy in Harrisburg in Scranton

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

How is it that the ACLU is even involved in this case? The people this legislation is for are NOT LEGAL CITIZENS OF THIS COUNTRY and therefore they have no rights.

9:41 PM  
Blogger ACLU of Pennsylvania said...

Anonymous, good question. This is a common misconception. The Constitution often refers to "persons," which is a distinct difference from "citizens." The use of the word "persons" is to make clear that people who are in the United States have certain rights.

We are involved for a variety of reasons. One, according to the Constitution, it is the job of the federal government to handle immigration.

Two, there are equal protection issues (14th amendment) here with discrimination based on race or ethnicity. The city is again changing the ordinance to remove words that imply that someone could file a complaint based partially on race and ethnicity. There is an article on this change at the website of the Standard Speaker,, called "City's IIRA to be revised Thursday to remove three words".


10:19 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


The Constitution says nothing about immigration, it only refers to rules establishing naturalization, which isn't the same thing. There is nothing in the Constitution that gives plenary power to the federal government over immigration. Please cite the Constitution in your response. And don't bother referring to any Commerce Clause cases, as people are not commoditiies of commerce.

9:52 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Counterfeiting money is a federal offense, but no one has ever argued that state and local authorities shouldn't cooperate with the FBI or the Secret Service in arresting offenders. Since federal authorites are far fewer in number than state and local police, it would seem to be in the interests of this nation to permit cooperation between them without fighting turf battles. Since illegal immigration is against federal law, and laws are generally established to protect the citizens of this country, why is it so objectionable that the police be barred from enforcing immigration laws. It would seem to me that your arguments are against the best interest of the people and the spirit of our legal system. How weird of the ACLU, which has always been an adovocate of law and order.

10:00 AM  
Blogger ACLU of Pennsylvania said...

Fair enough. I'm not a lawyer, so it's not possible for me to go too far into intricacies of constitutional and immigration law. However, many of the questions that have come up this week can be answered (at least from our perspective) by reading the original complaint and those that followed at

This is from the original complaint:

"The Ordinance unlawfully infinges on the federal government's authority over immigration, violating the Supremacy Clause, in two ways. The Ordinance defines- in a manner inconsistent with Federal law- who is a lawful immigrant. Some people lawfully in this country under Federal law, including some immigrants whose status may be unresolved, are deemed to be "illegal aliens" in Hazleton. Second, the Ordinance compels municipal officials and thrusts on private landlords, employers and merchants the responsibility to determine who is lawfully present in the United States, a very complex and difficult task properly and solely reserved to the Federal government."


10:17 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Actually, Andy,

The ordinance defers to federal government data bases to make the judgment on who is a legal resident. It is only after this is done that the landlord takes action. The ordinance is fully consonent with the spirit of our immigration laws. Furthermore, it is disingenuous on the part of the ACLU to assert that Hazleton is wrong about its right to assist in enforcing immigration law. Let me put this in a different light. What if the Hazleton police department were called upon to enforce the Federal Civil Rights laws, and actually did so. Could the Hazleton reject a plea from a citizen because it's a federal law, and not contrary to Pennsylvania law? Would the ACLU jump in to defend the law violator by claiming that Federal Civil Rights laws are plenary to the Federal government, and as such none of its business? Of course it wouldn't. This issue has nothing to do with plenary powers anyway, but everything to do with the charitable ethnocentric agenda of the Hispanic community. Just read the descriptions in your own ACLU postings.

11:19 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This law also, necessarily and probably deliberetly, puts all Hispanics under the shadow of suspicion and relgates them to second class status. It simply can't be implemented or inforced without racial/ethnic profiling, and what is worse, it foces the general populace into adopting this practice in the course of their normal everyday interactions.

Its bad enough when racists treat Hispanics poorly, now we all will be required to do so as a matter of law!

11:26 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

One question hasn't been asked and that is, does Hazleton have a right to be free of illegal aliens? Federal law is clear, in that illegal aliens are subject to deportation. Were there illegal aliens in Hazleton, and were they present in great numbers? The answer is clearly yes, as Hazleton enacted an ordinance designed to be seen as a threat only to illegal aliens. The language of the ordinance was clear in that respect. Subsequent to passage of that ordinance, thousands of persons departed Hazleton. They sought no legal assistance to defend their rights as citizens, as they realized they were not, being illegal aliens subject to deportation. It is clear to all but the ACLU that these people were beyond the shadow of a doubt illegal residents of Hazleton and this country. There is no evidence that one Hispanic citizen or legal resident departed Hazleton solely because he was under threat from the citizenry. There were complaints from Hispanics, but mainly from those whose main source of income was from selling to illegal aliens. Does anyone really feel that businesses have a right to make a living off of people who are not entitled to be in this country in the first place?

11:43 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

RE: An ordinance... designed to be seen as a threat only to illegal aliens.

Are you kidding? This ordnance was designed to be, and IS, a pernicious threat to any Hispanic that wants to live or work in Hazleton.

What about this blow-hard mayor? Asked about the numbers, he had to be given an extra day to "study so he can be prepared for Mr. Walczak's questions."

What a joke! He's been pissing and moaning about "illegal" immigrants for how long now, he's been scheduled to testify for how long, and he needs an extra day to "study" the numbers! All he knows is there are a bunch of new brown people in his town and he doesn't like it.

1:19 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

There's a difference between enforcing immigration law and actually discriminating against people because of skin tone or an accent. That's what these laws would do. It strips away due process from anyone accused of being "illegal." By the time you can go to court and prove that you are a citizen, you've already lost out on a job opportunity or a rental/home because business owners don't even want to risk being in violation of the law.

These laws aren't goig to improve life in Hazleton, crime is not going to go down, the economy is not going to go up. It's a knee jerk reaction to a situation that people are feeling all over the country (blame "illegals" for low wages, America is for Americans! and other assorted apple pie jingoistic slogans). But the response should never be, let's go after ALL immigrants! If you're Latino, you need to prove you're entitled to be in the U.S. before you can even step foot in our town!).

Let's just lay out all the cards on the table and admit this is about race. White Americans are afraid of losing their identity and being overrun by Mexicans and Hispanics. It doesn't matter if they're legal or not, they just want them gone.

2:08 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The ACLU through its malicious dirty mindedness has construed Hazleton's right to remove illegal aliens from its population as a racist issue, when Hazleton is only trying to protect the welfare of its legitimate citizens.

The fact is that those people left because they didn't want to be deported, not because of any fear of discrimination. Maybe the citizens of Hazleton were irate that they were being overrun by illegal aliens, but the immigration laws say they have a right to be. If the citizens of this country hadn't objected to illegal immigration, they wouldn't have made the laws prohibiting illegal immigration. And the immigration laws appliy to everyone, European, Asian, Hispanic, etc., so Hispanics can't claim to be exclusively targeted.

2:46 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Close the site Kowalski. The issue hasn't attracted the positive comments that you feed on.

9:22 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The ACLU is pathetic, they even tried to replace the city officials in Hazleton with unelected officials.

9:32 AM  

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