Mayor Proposes Official Language

L.A. Tarone, Standard-Speaker (PA), June 12, 2006

English will be the official language of the city of Hazleton, landlords who rent to illegal aliens will be fined and firms that hire illegal aliens will be barred from doing business within and with the city for five years if city council adopts a proposal from Mayor Lou Barletta. It is called the “Illegal Immigration Relief Act Ordinance.”

City council will consider it Thursday night.

The first three sections of the bill are declarations and definitions. The prohibitions are spelled out in Sections Four, Five and Six.

Section Four reads, “Any for-profit entity . . . that aids and abets illegal aliens or illegal immigration shall be denied approval of a business permit, the renewal of a business permit, city contracts or grants for a period of not less that five years . . . ”

That section extends the punitive measures to include “acts committed by its parent company or subsidiary.” It defines aiding and abetting as “the hiring or attempted hiring of illegal aliens, renting or leasing to illegal aliens, or funding or aiding in the establishment of a laborer center that does not verify legal work status.” It adds the prohibition on helping illegals means “within the United States, not just within the city limits.”

“It is broad in scope,” Barletta said. “It includes national companies. I do not want companies that hire illegals in Hazleton. Period.”

Section Five bars both the renting of property by illegals as well as legal residents and/or citizens renting to illegals, “irrespective of such person’s intent, knowledge or negligence.”

It fines violators $1,000 for each offense—presumably meaning that if a citizen rents to three illegals, that would constitute three violations, meaning fines of $3,000.

Barletta said enforcement could come through the existing landlords’ ordinance and after the fact in the event of a crime.

“If we apprehend an illegal in any crime or violation, we will check his address and check with the landlord to see that he was given some form of identification,” Barletta said.

“Landlords needs to ask for IDs. Now, of course, if they were shown false identification, we won’t charge them. But landlords have to ask for ID. They have to get some sort of documentation. I don’t want people profiting from illegals.”

Section Six declares English “the official language of the city.”

“This is America,” Barletta said. “English is the language we speak. Everyone should have to play by the same rules. Hey, if I moved to France I’d have to learn French.”

“Unless explicitly mandated by the federal government, the state of Pennsylvania or the city of Hazleton, all official city business, forms, documents, signage, telecommunications or electronic communication devices will be written in or utilize English only,” the proposal reads.

“Our taxpayers should not have to foot the bill to train workers to make documents available in multiple languages,” Barletta said. “There’s no reason to spend money for new arrivals who have chosen not to learn English. This is a great country with great opportunities. But people who enjoy the benefits of it should learn and use English.”

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“I want to make this city one of the most difficult places in the U.S. for illegals,” Barletta said. “If you’re in the country illegally, maybe this isn’t the place to come.”

Under Section Two, “Findings and Declaration of Purpose,” the proposal reads that illegal immigration “leads to higher crime, contributes to overcrowded classrooms and failing schools, subjects our hospitals to fiscal hardship and legal residents to substandard quality of care, and destroys our neighborhoods and diminishes our overall quality of life.”

The extent of Hazleton’s illegal alien problem, obviously, isn’t known. But several have been arrested in high-profile crimes within the last three months.

Pedro Cabrera and Joan Romero, the two men charged in the May murder of 29-year-old Derek Kichline, are in the country illegally from the Dominican Republic, officials have said.

Michael Brito, 19, whose street name is “Marko,” was the main target of a North Wyoming Street drug raid in March. He is in the country illegally from the Dominican Republic, officials have said.

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If passed, the ordinance will make Hazleton the second city in the state to adopt English as its official language. Allentown did so over a decade ago.

Allentown’s proclamation was controversial at the time it was adopted and remains so, though it appears to have widespread support among citizens.

But there, city Councilman Tony Phillips, elected in 2005, wants to strip the proclamation from the city charter and replace it with, “Allentown is a city that celebrates the diversity of its residents.”

But Phillips’ move has, thus far, not generated much support.

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