Hazelton, Pa., Mayor Louis J. Barletta
The Hazleton, Pa., mayor who launched a war on the impact of illegal aliens in his city was warned that his future political career would be “haunted” by the decision, but now Louis J. Barletta has won not only the GOP nomination for mayor, which he was seeking, but the Democratic nomination by virtue of 1,200 write-in votes.
According to the Northeastern Pennsylvania Times Leader, Barletta apparently is favored to serve a third term as the town’s mayor after the general election results are finalized in November.
Barletta told the newspaper he was “honored and humbled by the amount of support I received.”
According to unofficial returns, Democrats cast more than 1,200 write-in votes for Barletta, while the Democratic contender, Mike Marsicano, captured 739. On the GOP ballot, Barletta got 1,363 votes to 83 for government watchdog Dee Deakos.
Deakos said the popularity Barletta earned while proposing, implementing and defending in court the city’s Illegal Immigration Relief Act made a difference. And Marsicano has said he does not plan a write-in campaign in November.
Hazleton’s Illegal Immigration Relief Act was written in 2006 by Barletta, and signed into law the same year. An immediate lawsuit prompted its suspension, but the final outcome still is pending.
The ordinance would impose fines of up to $1,000 a day on landlords who rent to illegal immigrants and deny business permits for up to five years to companies that employ them.
Several dozen other cities and towns around the country either have followed Hazleton’s lead, approving laws ranging from penalizing companies that employ illegal immigrants to making English the official language of local government, or have begun reviewing that possibility.
The Hazleton measures were prompted by a number of high-profile crimes involving illegal immigrants. Two illegal immigrants from the Dominican Republic were charged in May 2006 with shooting and killing a 29-year-old man, and a 14-year-old boy was arrested for firing a gun at a playground.
The law was challenged in court by the American Civil Liberties Union, along with several Hispanic activist groups. The ultimate outcome could determine a precedent for whether local governments may act on their own to curb illegal immigration allowed by the federal government.
Barletta, who said during the campaign that he feared his opponents would drop the legal battle for the city’s ordinance, also expressed concern illegal aliens are destroying the quality of life in his small northeastern Pennsylvania city and costing the local treasury millions.
“I think the people of Hazleton do not want to go backwards … I think the message is clear they want me to keep fighting for them,” Barletta told the newspaper.
It was Anna Arias, a member of the Governors Commission on Latino Affairs, who criticized the mayor’s work on the ordinance.
During a city council meeting in 2006, she addressed the mayor directly:
“Are you planing to continue your political career?”
“Well, I haven’t announced anything …” Barletta began.
“I hope you are not,” Arias said. “This will haunt you.”
Barletta testified during the court arguments that police statistics revealed violent crime in Hazleton rose by 60 percent from 2003 to 2006, during a time when the city experienced an influx of new Hispanic residents.
He also said 19 illegals were charged with violent crimes including homicide, rape and aggravated assault, more than all the illegal immigrants charged during the preceding five years.
He noted the 52 violent crimes in the city in 2003, the 83 in 2006.
When he signed the law, Barletta said he wanted to make his city “the toughest place on illegal immigrants in America.”