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      08-18-2006, 11:16 AM   #1


God bless Lou Barletta

Towns Take Aim at Illegal Immigration

Posted 8/14/2006 12:09 AM ET

By Oren Dorell, USA TODAY

Lou Barletta says illegal immigrants are overfilling schools in Hazleton, Pa., cramming local health clinics and overrunning the playground where he once played basketball.

Barletta, mayor of the city of 22,000 south of Wilkes-Barre, says illegal immigration is "destroying small towns" that don't have the budget to deal with the influx.

So Barletta proposed a law that fines landlords for renting to illegal immigrants and punishes employers for hiring them. The City Council passed the measure, and Barletta signed it into law last month. To implement it, Barletta wants to require renters to go to City Hall and obtain a permit assuring landlords that they are in the USA legally. That would require a background check with the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Barletta says that even though the law isn't in effect yet, it's having an impact: "People are leaving daily."

Hazleton's requirements are strict, but other communities also are targeting landlords and employers. A similar law passed recently in Riverside, N.J., and others are being drafted or voted on in several other communities where leaders have complained for months about inaction by federal lawmakers.

"If a byproduct of this is to send out a message and embarrass the people out in D.C., then maybe that's good," says Andy Anderson, a councilman in Palm Bay, Fla. The city of 93,000 is one reading away from adopting a law that would fine anyone who employs an illegal immigrant a minimum of $500.

Similar measures are scheduled for votes in the Pennsylvania towns of Allentown (population 107,000), Shenandoah (5,300) and Mount Pocono (3,000). Local legislators in Gadsden, Ala. (population 37,400), Kennewick, Wash. (61,000), and Escondido, Calif. (134,000), are considering proposing legislation. A bill was narrowly rejected in Avon Park, Fla. (8,900).

Opponents, however, are lining up for a fight in Hazleton.

"This is a test case that will serve as a model for challenges around the country," says criminal defense lawyer David Vaida of Allentown, Pa. He has joined forces with the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund and the Pennsylvania chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union and says they are preparing a lawsuit.

"I don't think there was a municipality in the country until this came up that has ever required such a thing," he says. "Have you ever heard of a tenant needing an occupancy permit?"

Kris Kobach, once an immigration adviser to former attorney general John Ashcroft, disagrees. He says it is possible to draft a local ordinance that deals with immigration that will stand up to judicial scrutiny. He has helped several states draft immigration-related bills, including one in Utah that would penalize employers. Four states have passed similar laws this spring: Georgia, Louisiana, Colorado and Pennsylvania.

"States and localities bear a significant amount of the burden for dealing with illegal aliens, but the federal government bears the brunt of enforcing the law," Kobach says. "And when they don't, states and local governments pay the price."

Joseph Turner, an activist in San Bernardino, Calif. (population 199,000), pushed the idea before Hazleton adopted its law. The City Council declined to vote on it, and Turner was unable to gather enough signatures to put it on the ballot. He says passage across the country will "put enormous pressure on the federal government to come up with a solution that will finally solve this problem once and for all."

Barletta, meanwhile, says he has been contacted by officials from 30 towns asking for a copy of Hazleton's law.

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P.S. Too bad this will never happen in California. God knows we need this attitude here.