Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Plaintiffs rest, Defense calls "experts"

Hazleton trial, Tuesday, March 20

SCRANTON- After lunch at the Hazleton anti-immigrant trial in Scranton, city police chief Robert Ferdinand discussed under direct questioning various public events that were organized against the ordinances, including a candlelight vigil, a rally, and the presence at the city council meeting the night the first ordinance passed. In each situation, organizers and the police worked in cooperation to ensure that the safety of all involved was protected.

Before lunch, defense counsel and Chief Ferdinand went through twenty incident reports of crimes committed by undocumented immigrants, so plaintiffs attorney Tom Fiddler of Cozen O'Connor started his cross-examination after lunch by asking the chief about the 20 reports.

"Those 20 reports that we went through are part of the 8571 crimes" committed in Hazleton from 2001 to 2006, Fiddler stated, and Chief Ferdinand concurred. Fiddler also noted that some of the 20 suspects were not residents of the city of Hazleton.

Most of the cross was spent restating statistics, including the 83 violent crimes committed in Hazleton in 2006, 3 by undocumented immigrants, and 88 in 2005, zero by undocumented immigrants.

Before the plaintiffs rested their case, the depositions of John and Jane Does 1, 2, 3, and 4 were submitted. Due to their immigration status, these plaintiffs did not publicly testify, and Judge Munley noted for those in the courtroom that he has the power to allow this under "exceptional circumstances" and "in the interests of justice." The defense did cross-examination those witnesses during the depositions.

To open their case, the defense called Dr. Steven Camarota, the director of research at the Center for Immigration Studies in Washington, D.C. Dr. Camarota is a Philadelphia native, a graduate of Juniata College (bachelor's), Penn (master's), and the University of Virginia (PHD). With CIS, Dr. Camarota evaluates Census Bureau data and examines the research methods used by the bureau. He was entered as an expert witness to discuss the fiscal impact of illegal immigration, census data, and the impact on hospitals. He has testified before Congress but never as an expert in a trial. By his own admission, he is not an economist or a statistician.

Before being entered as an expert witness, plaintiffs counsel Denise Alvarez of Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund asked Camarota about CIS's immigration vision for the United States, and it became clear that CIS believes that the national interest of the United States would be served by a lower rate of immigration. Alvarez stated, "You always conclude that there is a net negative impact" from illegal immigration. The plaintiffs attempted to block Camarota's entry as an expert, but the judge allowed him to testify.

Under direct questioning, Camarota stated that an undocumented immigrant has a net negative impact on the federal budget of $2700 and also claimed that the impact at the state and local level is about double that figure.

By looking at the budget and students in the English-as-a-Second-Language program at the local school district, which is made up of more than a dozen local municipalities, Camarota estimated that there are 1500-3400 undocumented immigrants in the city.

Under cross-examination by Alvarez, Camarota conceded that legal residents and citizens can also be participating in the ESL program. He also admitted that he did not have the number of students in the ESL program who are undocumented immigrants.

The next expert called by the defense was John Martin, the special project director at the Federation for American Immigration Reform. Martin last earned a degree in 1961, when he achieved a bachelor's in political science. He also spent a year on sabbatical studying Latin American affairs at UCLA. Since 2003, Martin has had 18 articles published. All of those articles were published by either FAIR or CIS, and none of them were peer-reviewed.

FAIR is a non-partisan, non-profit organization that, according to its website, "advocates a temporary moratorium on all immigration except spouses and minor children of U.S. citizens and a limited number of refugees." According to today's testimony, FAIR's immigration concerns include assimilation, the nation's limits on non-renewable energy sources, and an immigration flow that contributes economically.

Martin acknowledged criticisms that FAIR is anti-Latino but said that the organization is "for a non-discriminatory policy."

Calling staff from CIS and FAIR as witnesses is significant. Both organizations were founded and are funded by activist John Tanton. Tanton has been described by the Southern Poverty Law Center as "the puppeteer" of the anti-immigrant movement. Tanton has founded and/or funded 13 anti-immigrant groups, including some that SPLC lists as hate groups.

It is important to note that SPLC does not consider either FAIR or CIS hate groups. However, it has made note of collaboration between FAIR and other groups that it lists in the hate group category.

FAIR worked closely with a hate group, the American Immigration Control Foundation (AICF), to pay signature-gatherers for the referendum. Together, they spent $305,500. Like Abernethy, AICF's leader, John Vinson, is an adviser to the CCC, a group that has described blacks as a "retrograde species of humanity." FAIR has not criticized Vinson in any way.

FAIR's Dan Stein is an editorial adviser to The Social Contract, a journal that is published by a hate group and has featured articles by Abernethy. The journal is edited by Wayne Lutton, another adviser to the CCC.

And the defense feels that Martin is a credible "expert" despite this questionable background of his organization. The plaintiffs attempted to block his entry as an expert but failed.

Martin's testimony was very narrow and focused on the State Criminal Alien Assistance Program, which is a federal program that reimburses states a percentage of the money they spend to incarcerate illegal immigrants. Martin stated that the state had 500-700 incarceration years in 2003 of immigrants, legal and illegal. Luzerne County, where Hazleton is located, had 11 prisoner years that year. Martin said that Pennsylvania is below the national average.

SF will not have a blogger present at Wednesday's proceedings but will get a lunchtime update from the legal team.

Andy in Harrisburg in Scranton

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