Trial tests law on illegal immigration
SCRANTON, Pennsylvania |
SCRANTON, Pennsylvania (Reuters) - A Pennsylvania town's anti-illegal-immigration law created a climate of fear in which businesses failed and people moved out, a lawyer argued on Monday as a trial seen as a test of U.S. immigration policy began.
The result of the case, the first federal trial over whether local jurisdictions can make their own laws on illegal immigration, is expected to affect cities and towns across the United States as the country debates what to do with the 12 million illegal aliens estimated to be inside its borders.
American Civil Liberties Union attorney Vic Walczak said the city of Hazleton and its mayor, Lou Barletta, violated the U.S. Constitution in passing the ordinance because only the federal government has the right to make immigration law.
"The city has been terrified not by illegal immigrants but by the ordinance, and by Mr. Barletta's rhetoric," Walczak told U.S. District Judge James Munley, who will decide whether the law is constitutional.
Lawyers for the city of 30,000 counter that Hazleton needs the law to combat a rise in crime and increased public spending that have accompanied the influx of Latino immigrants.
Hazleton's attorney Kris Kobach contended the town did not infringe the federal government's authority to regulate immigration, and is entitled to protect itself from the effects of illegal immigration.
The law, passed in July 2006, has not been implemented because of a court injunction won by opponents.
It would fine landlords who rent to illegal immigrants and suspend the business licenses of employers who hire them.
ACLU lawyers say some businesses closed as a result of immigrants leaving the city after the law was passed.
Kobach said crime has surged in Hazleton since illegal immigrants arrived in recent years and Hazleton schools spent $1.1 million on teaching English as a second language in 2006, up from $500 in 2000.
"In the last few years, illegal immigration has played a very destructive role in Hazleton's history," Kobach said.
At a rally outside the courthouse, Hazleton resident Heather Buck, 30, said her fiance, Jose Arrias Maravilla, 25, an undocumented Mexican who has lived in the United States for eight years, was picked up by Hazleton police when their car broke down on January 29 and detained until March 6, when he was given 60 days to leave the country.
"In Hazleton, it has got so bad that ... the police are picking people up off the street for nothing," she said.
Amilcar Arroyo, publisher of local Latino newspaper El Mensajero, said the law has split the town. "There are two groups of people. For people who oppose the ordinance, it is hard right now. They feel they are not welcome," Arroyo said.
The trial is expected to last about two weeks.
- Tweet this
- Share this
- Digg this