Friday, March 23, 2007

"It's not easy fighting City Hall"

Thursday, March 22

The final day of the Hazleton trial opened with the news that the Hazleton City Council had passed yet another revision of its anti-immigrant ordinance the previous night. As plaintiffs attorney Vic Walczak said ruefully, "It's a little difficult when the target keeps moving."

Vic Walczak gave the closing argument for the plaintiffs. He spoke about the bravery of the clients, and said "it's not easy fighting City Hall." He acknowledged that public opinion is not necessarily with the plaintiffs in the case, but it's "not a popularity contest. The Constitution protects everybody--even the minority."

Walczak cited to the dictionary definition of the word scapegoat: "one that bears blame for others; object of irrational hostility." He painted a picture of a mayor and a city council who claimed illegal immigrants were "the cause of all Hazleton’s woes, and by extension, this nation’s woes" with absolutely no investigation or evidence.

He pointed out that Hazleton does not have the financial troubles it claims, and in fact, the influx of immigrants, both legal and illegal, to Hazleton have played a large role in the revitalization of the city. In 2000, before the influx, they had a $1.2 million deficit. That is now a surplus. The town saw its largest increase in property values last year, part of three consecutive years of increases. The town's net assets are up 18%, and the towns bond rating is AAA. Hazleton is in "pretty good financial shape."

In passing the ordinance, Hazleton cited the toll illegal immigrants have taken on the schools and the hospital. However, students from Hazleton make up only 43% of the total number in the school district, and it has never endorsed this ordinance. The hospital, allegedly struggling under the burden of providing services to illegal immigrants, managed to turn a $4 million profit last year.

The centerpiece of Mayor Barletta's claims for needing the ordinance has always been crime. Although the number of crimes in Hazleton has indeed increased, the population has increased by a greater percent. What does that mean? That the per capita crime rate now is actually lower than it was five years ago. (These figures came directly from charts provided by the city.) The mayor has said he "doesn't need figures to know the story."

By accounts on both sides, before the ordinance there had been "relative harmony" between the native-born residents in Hazleton and the new immigrants. The mayor's PR campaign and the ordinance have put an end to that and have "promoted hostility toward the immigrant community," said Walczak

The judge asked if the plaintiffs needed to file a fourth version of the complaint, given that Hazleton had changed the ordinance yet again. He seemed perplexed as to how to handle this aspect, saying "I've never had this happen to me before." Walczak argued (in the legal sense) that unless there's a declaration that the law that had been passed was unconstitutional, there was no legal bar to the city reverting back to the original version.

Interestingly, after months of playing to emotions about the ordinance, the attorney for the other side, Kris Kobach, stuck purely to the law in his closing statement. He stated the other side had spent "twenty minutes offering you a story. I'm not going to waste the court's time telling a story of quoting from the dictionary. I'll go straight to the law." He proceeded to argue that the plaintiffs did not have standing and that Hazleton was not preempting federal law.

He made the claim that contrary to what the plaintiffs argued, it was possible to find out easily someone's immigration status, and that it was a cut-and-dried definition. He said that the city did not need scientific evidence of the problems with illegal immigrants, just a rational belief.

Several times Kobach claimed that the plaintiffs filed prematurely, and that therefore there was no way to know if the ordinance provided adequate due process or would be applied discriminatorily. He also assured the court that Hazleton’s code enforcement office would provide a warning to a violator and not immediately enforce these provisions. The judge asked "do we look at the practice? Or the policy?" He went on to say that in every community, enforcement of the law is often "based on who you are."

Kobach also claimed the ordinances had been "painstakingly crafted." (An interesting claim, given how many times they've been revised.)

Several times the judge mentioned how "convoluted" this case is. He said that the "lawyering was very spirited" and complimented both sides on "brilliant closings."

Given the amount of paper already submitted to the court in the case, the judge asked that each sides findings of fact be limited to 20-30 pages and not be repetitive of prior briefs. They are to be filed by May 7th.

After arguments concluded, lawyers on both sides took time to give press interviews and check out their portraits as drawn by a local artist for a national television network. Outside, as Walczak left the phalanx of cameramen and reporters to head back to his hotel, a spectator standing on the side walk approached him. "Are you with Hazleton?" he asked hopefully. After receiving a "no," the man said "Too bad. I want Hazleton to pass this thing so that we can get one here in Scranton. We gotta get those people out of here."

Sara in Philly

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9 Comments:

Blogger Atheism Quotes said...

"The Constitution protects everybody--even the minority."

I think this is something a lot of people forget. We don't NEED a democracy to protect the majority... they can make their own rules. The Bill of Rights in particular was designed for those rights SO important that even the majority can't take them away.

Protect us all from the tyranny of the majority.

4:55 PM  
Blogger Veeves said...

Illegal immigrants don`t have rights in America. They broke into this country and do not deserve to be here.

If congress had any integrity they would do the same thing President Dwight D. Eisenhower did. They would make it almost impossible to have a job.

5:01 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is how Digger and I see it, his commentary:

"Hazleton is like a boat in danger of sinking. Every illegal alien drags it down"

Kris Kobach, Hazleton
Hazleton attorney Kris Kobach made the closing arguments for the city and said that he was "not going to waste the court’s time with a story ... I'm going to go straight to the law and plug in the facts where appropriate,”, making a technical closing argument that reinforces that the ordinance doesn't conflict. He quoted data presented in the case showing that of the 31,000 residents in Hazleton 1,500 to 3,500 are illegal aliens, as many as 10 percent of the population. He noted that these lawbreakers pay little to nothing in taxes and burden the city's services.
He also pointed out the increase in violent crime and street gangs, the crowded schools and hospitals all as reasons for putting in place the ordinance. Kobach said that while illegal aliens aren't the sole reason for the problems in the city, they are a main contributor.

"Hazleton is like a boat in danger of sinking. Every illegal alien drags it down." Kobach said.

Kobach also said that no actions would be taken against businesses and landlords before first verifying with federal databases that there were in fact illegal aliens renting from them or working for them.

Kobach pointed out other state laws, such a Virginia law that bars illegal immigrants from attending state-owned universities, as proof that Hazleton can implement local laws as long as they are consistent with federal laws.

He also stated that constitution and legal precedent allow Hazleton to enforce immigration laws “concurrently” with federal law through regulating licenses of businesses and that the city’s ordinance is also consistent with a federal statute forbidding the harboring of illegal immigrants.

Kobach then went into pointing out that the Luchugas were losing money before the ordinance was proposed, that landlords who gave testimony were only speculating on why tenants didn't rent from them and that a 10th Circuit Court found that an immigrant became illegal “on the date a status violation becomes effective.”, not when an immigration judge made a decision on their status. Comparing it to Driving Under the Influence Kobach said "It doesn’t matter how carefully you drive … you’re guilty the entire time you’re in that state,"

Outside The Courthouse

Mayor Lou Barletta
Mayor Lou Barletta said he was angered by the ACLU's defense of lawbreakers and by Mr. Walczak's attempt to minimize vicious crimes committed by people who had no right to be in Hazleton or the United States.
Barletta said that the real victims, like Derek Kichline who was murdered by illegal aliens, have been forgotten.

"A 6-year-old girl was raped by an illegal alien," Mr. Barletta said. "I wonder what he would say about these ordinances if it was his daughter."

“I totally disregard any of their comments about us not having enough crime statistics,” said Mayor Lou Barletta “If the ordinance could have stopped one crime and that would have been the rape of a 6-year-old girl by an illegal immigrant, that would be enough for me.”

Plaintiff's attorney Foster Maer, of the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund, said that if Hazleton's ordinances are enforced, "we'll have complete chaos with every town having its own foreign policy."

One more thing, atheism quotes, illegal aliens are not totally enfranchised by our Constitution, as they are subject to deportation under our laws. They are indeed quite different from we who are citizens.

Horace

9:19 PM  
Blogger Atheism Quotes said...

Ah, but there's a difference between being prosecuted under the law, and being denied basic human rights, Horace. What Hazelton is trying to do would not only deny those kinds of rights to the illegal immigrants, but encourage people to treat legal immigrants the same way.

Can you tell the difference between a legal and an illegal immigrant by looking at them? Can you tell the difference between a Hispanic citizen, and a Hispanic immigrant (legal or not) but looking at them?

Of course not. So what would someone do in that situation? Simply treat them all as illegals and deny the rights the others DO have.

The bottom line it, illegal, undocumented, or otherwise not allowed to be here, these people STILL have protection under the Constitution in certain areas. Period.

All Hazelton is trying to do is instill fear and mistrust against the Hispanics of the community. They're doing it in the supposed name of protecting the legal citizens, but it's obvious they mean the NON-HISPANIC citizens.

It appears there are actually NO numbers that support the claims made about the increase in crime being attributable proportionately to illegal immgrants, nothing to show the schools and hospitals are being crushed under the burden, and a mayor who is confidently saying he doesn't need ANY facts because "he knows what he knows."

Do something about the real problem, but don't go around promoting discrimination and hatred based on ignorance and generalizations.

10:21 PM  
Anonymous blaize27 said...

"All Hazelton is trying to do is instill fear and mistrust against the Hispanics of the community. They're doing it in the supposed name of protecting the legal citizens, but it's obvious they mean the NON-HISPANIC citizens."

The Hispanic community in Hazleton has done a fine job of instilling fear and mistrust against them and it has absolutely nothing to do with the passage of this ordinance. It was not a white Hazletonian that walked up and shot a Hispanic in cold blood...but rather an illegal alien from the Dominican Republic that shot a local white Hazleton citizen. And while that was the most prominent crime addressed in the court hearing, it is not the only crime committed by Hispanics. It makes absolutely no difference if the crimes have not increased "proportionally" to the increase in populution, if one crime was committed here by an illegal alien that is one crime too many and one that never should have happened. Furthermore, the opposition to the ordinance by people like Anna Arias and Agapito Lopez - both US citizens - has also fueled even further resentment against the Hispanics in Hazleton. At no point in time did they offer to work with Mayor Barletta to prevent the legal Hispanics from being negatively impacted by this ordinance while it attempts to proactively address the issue of the illegals being in the city. They did absolutely nothing but denounce it for no other reason than they themselves are Hispanic. If they are US citizens then they should support the rule of law in this country. However, they put their own race and ethnicity before the laws of this country to the detriment of all of the other legal residents of Hazleton. As Agapito Lopez said, "Latinos are a family." and he is well aware that many of his "family members" are here illegally. Opposition to the Hazleton ordinance is not about preventing "discrimination" or "hatred" but is nothing more than to further the self-serving racist agenda of the Hispanic community in order for them to gain power in this city and country.

11:16 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is really a sick agrument. Would anyone feel better if a six year old was raped by a white person with full citizenship? The crime is hideous, does it matter who committed it?
We have a lot of sickass folks out there committing crimes who are full born citizens. Does that make them better criminals?
And I am sure there were more shooting crimes in the national that involved people of other races.
We cannot blame a few bad Hispanics, legal or illegal, for the woes of society.

8:56 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I hope the judge does not allow the city to enforce this ordinance. Seems to me that people in this country are becomming out of touch with reality and they are indeed blaming the undocumented immigrants for everything that is wrong in this country. Racial profiling, hate groups, discrimination would become common place in Hazelton and in other states if this law passes. I just see an increase in Hispanic population, therefore things will change is this land and in my opinion working out issues and learning about different cultures will be better in the long run. The law has to be followed and immigration has to be controlled better, I agree with that, but do not blame all the wrongs on one group. And do not try to de humanize people by calling them "aliens" and do distinguish between a real criminal an a non criminal. Living here illegaly does not make people a criminal, that is really harsh word. It is funny to think that for example Arizona belonged to Mexico and if a Mexican immigrant lives now "illegaly" in Arizona he would be called a criminal. That shows you the dehumanization that some people want to create, we are all humans, and many of the people from Mexico used to live in these lands and did not have labels.

7:27 PM  
Blogger Aaron said...

I think that 90% of those who say they support illegal immigrants in this country need to actually do some research before they speak. Obviously, common sense is something they lack and I'm sad to see how their children will turn out. No, I'm not racist, but I am tired of reading of crime instilled by gang violence. Who plays a major role in these gangs? Illegal immigrants from Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, and Mexico. Those who are here and illegal work, but send most of their money back home. They don't pay taxes and therefore only hurt our economy. If there was a draft, I can't see a single one of them willing to die for this country, yet they feel okay with raping our healthcare and welfare systems. It's easy to just sit back and say you support them so you appear on their good side, but the truth about anyone from the Dominican Republic is that they would stab you for a mere dollar bill. They have no values or morals. It sickens me that people are so afraid to speak up and rather put down those who actually see the United States being taken advantage of. The illegals claim that Americans don't wish to do the jobs that pay such little money because we're lazy. Try again. We wish to better ourselves through a good education, because minimum wage and the cost of living today no longer balance out. Illegals don't have any rights. If someone from America went to one of these places, do you honestly think we'd be taken in with open arms? Try doing some research on the cruise liner that went to Mexico and two American passengers became ill on it. The hospital in Mexico would not let them leave until they paid in cash. Yet here, they give false social security numbers and work the system over for free health care. If America continues to cater to the likes of those who don't belong here, we will eventually defeat ourselves. Those who are for illegal immigrants are against this country and are nothing more in my eyes, than the enemy.

12:35 AM  
Blogger ACLU of Pennsylvania said...

Speaking of needing to do some research before you speak.... Aaron states "Who plays a major role in these gangs? Illegal immigrants from Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, and Mexico."

Um, Puerto Rico is PART of the United States. Therefore people from Puerto Rico cannot, by definition, be "illegal immigrants."

Sara in Philly

10:26 AM  

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