Thursday, March 15, 2007

Immigration expert: Hazleton went too far

Hazleton's Illegal Immigration Relief Act ordinance was again under the microscope in courtroom 4 at the federal courthouse in Scranton. Under direct examination by ACLU legal director Vic Walczak, immigration expert Marc R. Rosenblum, a political science professor at the University of New Orleans who last year worked with Congress in drafting immigration reform, offered damning testimony of Hazleton's ordinance and the voluntary federal verification programs it encourages Hazleton businesses to use. Mr. Rosenblum's testimony articulated a lack of due diligence by the ordinance's authors.

"Hazleton has changed the penalty structure" of immigration law, "making it harsher and shortening timelines." According to Mr. Rosenblum the "best historical example" of anything comparable to Hazleton's ordinance is Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 (IRCA). IRCA has had no effective curtailment of undocumented employment, "had the effect of driving down wages… for all U.S. workers," and "has led to increased discrimination against Latinos."

"Seven percent of employers admitted to the (Government Accountability Office) that, after IRCA passed, they stopped hiring Latinos," Rosenblum stated.

"Hazleton's ordinance eliminates due process" by only allowing three days for employers to come into compliance, upon receipt of a complaint. "It is a near certainty that legal citizens and immigrants will be victimized by the three day timeline."

He claims that the complaint-based enforcement nature of the ordinance encourages discrimination, and that even the most "hardcore, restrictive [federal immigration reform] legislation doesn't contemplate this sort of individual complaint based system."

According to Mr. Rosenblum, Hazleton's ordinance, in contrast with federal law, also requires businesses to verify the eligibility of their independent contractors. Perhaps the most severe difference between Hazleton and federal statutes is that the U.S. government requires that businesses must not knowingly hire ineligible workers, where Hazleton prohibits the employment of ineligible workers, whether knowingly or unknowingly. Mr. Rosenblum argues this encourages defensive non-hirings, which increases the chances of discrimination based on the "face test." "The burdens are likely to be felt by Latinos" because "employers will assume that someone who looks Latino is more likely to be undocumented."

The Basic Pilot Program, an optional electronic employment verification system run by the federal government, the use of which is highly encouraged by, and sometimes mandated by Hazleton's ordinance, was a topic of extensive discussion this morning. It has historically been error prone, according to studies cited by Mr. Rosenblum.
Basic Pilot "wrongly non-confirms too many" because there are a "number of sources of error and opportunities for legal citizens and legal non-citizens to be not confirmed," Mr. Rosenblum said. A common problem is the fact that information on legal immigrants does not get transferred into the databases that Basic Pilot checks in a timely manner. Name spellings and name orders of legal non-citizens authorized to work in the U.S. are often entered in error during registration of new persons. Also problematic are transposed social security numbers and birthdays for U.S. citizens.

Rosenblum claims this all leads to "a relatively high percentage of false negatives," where "under 90% of legal non-citizens are confirmed." This number may even be lower, as it appears to be based on the fact that "27% of persons tentatively non-confirmed who appeal are found to be legally employable." And "73% of employers don't properly notify employers [of their rights to appeal] when tentatively non-confirmed."

Defense attorney Kris Kobach, who Hazleton Mayor Louis Barletta admitted in yesterday's testimony was the chief counsel in drafting the embattled legislation, took the opportunity to cross-examine Mr. Rosenblum. While previous witnesses have stuttered, stammered, and even changed the subject when asked for specific substantiation of their claims or conclusions, Mr. Rosenblum consistently cited specific studies, legislation, and previous expert opinion whenever pressed by Mr. Kobach.

The only exception to this was when Mr. Kobach asked Mr. Rosenblum whether he's done any specific studies on, or had any statistics with regards to, the effects the specific ordinance in Hazleton. Mr. Rosenblum had to remind Mr. Kobach on several occasions that the ordinance in Hazleton is under injunction and never went into effect, therefore making it impossible to be studied.

Also somewhat dubious was Mr. Kobach's introduction of, and questioning on, statistics from the updated Temple - Westat Immigration Reform Report, which is not yet publicly available. Mr. Rosenblum has repeatedly cited the most recent 2002 report. Neither Mr. Rosenblum nor the plaintiffs have seen, or were previously aware of, the statistics Mr. Kobach brought up.

Just before lunch break, Mr. Walczak asked Judge James M. Munley to order Mr. Kobach to produce these statistics. Mr. Kobach responded he "would be happy to do a web search" to try to find them.

Abe in Scranton

Special note: Thanks to Northeast Chapter board member Abe Allen for filling in on the blog!

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

RE: While previous witnesses have stuttered, stammered, and even changed the subject when asked for specific substantiation of their claims or conclusions, Mr. Rosenblum consistently cited specific studies, legislation, and previous expert opinion whenever pressed by Mr. Kobach.

He must be part of the intellegent, educated segment of society!

5:23 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bill O'Reilly was right about you people...your nuts. I guess you people dont understand ILLEGAL, do you? I find it funny how you people dont even call them illegals, you would rather call them "undocumented". I hope you lose in court because you people are rediculous. ACLU=A BIG Joke.

7:03 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The ACLU is beyond protecting U.S. citizen rights. It has global aspirations in its pursuit of international human rights. It's agenda is open borders, elimination of national sovereignty and the right for everyone to move from one country to another without interference from the indigenous population who they characterize as racist and xenophobic when they voice their objections. The ACLU's recent confrontations with irate citizens are manifested in their support of illegal aliens. They are using the very tools and protections that our Founding Fathers estabished, namely the Constitution, against us. If any of you ACLU members object to this persecution of citizens, I suggest that you quit in protest.

7:49 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

RE: If any of you ACLU members object to this persecution of citizens, I suggest that you quit in protest.

Andy, that's it. I'm not taking it any more. I'm sending you another check tonight! In protest!

8:01 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

RE: the pursuit of international human rights

International human rights! Yikes! How will the world ever survive the evil of INTERNATIONAL HUMAN RIGHTS!

Run and hide!

8:05 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You folks are a bunch of loony Communists! You are resolved to destroy this country and everything it stands for....Lawyers and sharks get a bad rap...(for the shark!!)

8:10 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Close the comments. They add nothing, and demean the site.

8:28 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


8:49 PM  
Blogger ACLU of Pennsylvania said...


Well, daniel, you have a point, but the name of the site is "Speaking Freely," and we are the staunch defenders of free speech.

I actually think the comments this week have made quite clear the motivations of the anti-immigrant crowd.

And thanks, Alan, for the protest check.


9:25 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Kowalski takes lessons from the students at Columbia University who attacked the Minutemen. If one doesn't agree with a position, simply have the forum destroyed.

10:04 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


How do you respond to someone who says he gives complete support to legal immigration as provided for by our current laws, but abhores the current state of illegal immigration as represented by the invasion down on our southern border? Are they still anti-immigrant to you? Fess up, you are really disparaging anti-open border folks, aren't you.

publius cincinatus

9:28 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This makes more sense than you do, Abe:

ACLU's anti-Hazleton star witness admits myth-making
From "Owner admits Hazleton's immigrant law didn't force store to close":
...Most of the stories claim that the Hazleton laws aimed at throwing out illegal immigrants have harmed innocent people instead...

...[Jose and Rosa Lechuga; in English, "lechuga" = "lettuce"], legal immigrants from Mexico, said police damaged their businesses by parking cruisers nearby. They said this was a source of intimidation to potential customers, whether they had citizenship or not.

But last week, during the early stages of the federal trial that will decide the constitutionality of Hazleton's immigration laws, city lawyers exposed the Lechugas' story as untrue.
He was far behind on his mortgage payments, and a suburban store he opened failed because many of the customers were illegal aliens who were picked up in a federal raid.

And, "Mr. Lechuga testified that most of his customers at the suburban store were illegal immigrants."

Now, let's turn to October 31, 2006's "Federal Judge Blocks Hazleton Anti-Immigrant Ordinance, Says Law Causes Harm to Legal Immigrants" from the ACLU of Pennsylvania (
A federal judge today issued a temporary order [] blocking anti-immigrant ordinances from being enforced in Hazleton, Pennsylvania, noting that the laws could cause "irreparable injury" to the city's residents. The ordinances were challenged in court by local business owners, landlords and residents who would be negatively impacted by the laws.

In issuing the order, Judge James M. Munley cited examples of citizens and non-citizens who stand to risk "housing, livelihood, and education" if the ordinances are enforced, including Brenda Lee Mieles, a United States citizen who may be evicted from her residence because of her inability to establish her citizenship, and Rosa and Jose Luis Lechuga, who continue to suffer a great loss of business in their store and restaurant. In contrast, he found, the city had not supported any of its "vague complaints about the presence of illegal immigrants" with evidence or statistics...
I'd say that federal judge owes us an explanation, and Lechuga and the ACLU owe the judge an explanation as well. From the TRO:
For example, Plaintiff Jane Doe 1 risks being evicted from her apartment along with her two young children, although not an "illegal alien" under the laws of the United States...
As discussed in the First Amended Complaint of October 30, 2006 ( she's applying for LPR under the VAWA; it would seem like the ACLU could work with Hazleton to deal with such most likely highly rare cases. Er, why didn't they? Then, we get to the lettuce couple:
Plaintiffs Rosa and Jose Luis Lechuga have suffered and continue to suffer a great loss of business in their store and restaurant located in Hazleton, which they blame on the ordinances...A monetary price cannot be placed on such matters as plaintiffs' housing, livelihood and education.
From the First Amended Complaint:
16. Plaintiffs Rosa and Jose Luis Lechuga ("Lechuga") are husband and wife and are residents of Hazleton. Plaintiffs Lechuga own a grocery store in Hazleton. They formerly owned a restaurant in Hazleton as well. 17. Plaintiffs Lechuga came to the U.S. from Mexico in 1981. They moved to Hazleton in 1991 to work on tomato and cucumber farms. 18. Plaintiffs Lechuga opened their store approximately eight years ago; they opened their restaurant at the beginning of 2006. 19. Plaintiffs Lechuga have lost significant revenue since the Immigration Ordinance and its predecessor - Ordinance 2006-10 - were enacted. Before the enactment of the Prior Ordinances, Plaintiffs Lechuga served between 45-130 customers per day at he restaurant, and between 95-130 customers per day at the store. Since the enactment of the Prior Ordinance, they served between 6-7 persons per day at the restaurant and 20-23 persons per day at the store. The loss in revenue and profit resulting from the passage of the Prior and New Ordinances has forced Plaintiffs Lechuga to close the restaurant. Plaintiffs Lechuga remain obligated to pay rent for the restaurant location under a lease.
We now know that some of the drop-off is apparently due to other factors.

And, let's turn to the March 12, 2007 post from the ACLU-PA's blog (
In the afternoon session at the Hazleton anti-immigrant trial, three Hazleton residents testified that the ordinance negatively impacted life in the city.

"Everything has totally changed," said local businessman Jose Lechuga, who noted that racism and "hatred" became more prominent after the passing of the ordinance.

...On cross-examination, defense counsel asked Lechuga if the customers of his grocery store were documented and undocumented immigrants.

"I don't think that's my job to find out," Lechuga replied.

Throughout the afternoon, the defense team has attempted to show that the Lechuga's businesses were failing before the ordinance and that documented immigrants had nothing to fear from the new law. The testimony of Dr. Lopez and Mr. Lechuga, along with Rosa Lechuga, Jose's wife, and Pedro Lozano, who also testified this afternoon, made it clear that there was a marked difference in the business climate and the neighborhood environment after the passing of the ordinance last summer.
And, from March 13, 2007, here's Wade Malcolm of the Scranton Star-Tribune:
Jose Lechuga once thought he'd spend the rest of his life in Hazleton, a place he always considered fit for raising his five children.

That dream died recently, he said. And when he was asked on the witness stand why he thought this happened, Mr. Lechuga gave a simple answer.

"La ordenanza," the Mexico native testified Monday about the ordinance, through a court-appointed translator at the William J. Nealon Federal Courthouse.
From the same date here's the AP's Michael Rubinkam buying Lechuga's myth-making instead of trying to verify it (entitled "Grocer: Pa. Town's Laws Scared Customers" by the Guardian):
Jose Lechuga struggled as a grocer, but he said his Hispanic customers became scarce when the city of Hazleton began to crack down on illegal immigrants. "They didn't feel safe and they didn't want to have any problems," he testified through an interpreter as the first federal trial began on a local law meant to curb illegal immigration.

6:30 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

you kno wat i respect immigrants and they should b legal in this country!thats all i have to say about the subject.....

6:32 PM  

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