Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Pennsylvania town taking immigration into their own hands

In Hazleton, PA - a town not too far from Lancaster - the mayor passed a measure that gave authorities "extraordinary power" when dealing with illegal immigrants. The law was actually targeted at employers and landlords who dealt with illegal immigrants. Since it passed in Hazleton, federal court has deemed it unconstitutional. Still, the desire to pass the law and the support it has received from Hazleton's non-Latino population has caused tension in the town. Hispanic residents who are citizens of the US are targeted the same as illegal immigrants, and discriminated against in town. Hazleton also blames increased crime on the illegal population.
I think this raises interesting questions about immigration control and policy in the United States. The mayor, Lou Barletta, (who now plans to run for congress) passed the bill because it was his duty to protect the (legal) residents of his town. He also mentioned that the officials in Washington weren't doing their jobs in this area. Should towns and cities be able to control the illegal immigrant population as they wish? Is it important for the safety of each municipality? Or should it be federally regulated? Hazleton's story suggests that towns want more control over their own populations, however unconstitutional it may seem.


sara said...

Insofar as Hannah's question, I believe that while specific laws that only effect a certain municipality can be passed at the state level, the major laws, and more significantly the TONE of immigration policy must be set at the federal level- a tone that says the United States is not a country of scapegoating and profiling in the name of politics. If you look at the two issues spotlighted in the article by the individuals who approved the measure, the man of the street discussed work visas and the mayor discussed crime. Crime and economics. Its a fact that in the history of this country immigration policy has been effected by the overall economic needs of the American people - do we need laborers or is there an apparent shortage of jobs? Right now, rather than the economic downturn being blamed on the current administration and the Iraq war (or if you care to be less political, a worldwide economic downturn that should be expected in the cyclical economic ebb and flow...) Immigrants (not only illegal, but all visible immigrants) are being scapegoated as taking away jobs, scapegoated as being criminals and irresponsible with the healthcare system. Lets blame the real culprit- poor governance- not visible scapegoats. The discrimination against Hispanic citizens of this country based upon the ignorant assumption that they came illegally and 'caused all the problems' is analogous to the xenophobia Arab American faced after 9/11. Sure, our lawmakers can and should be trying to enact revolutionary U.S. laws that address our nations problems, but how about laws that address the issues ALL citizens face, rather than encouraging profiling.

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