Hazleton PA: Illegal Immigrants targeted through ESL classes

Harold F. Schiffman haroldfs at ccat.sas.upenn.edu
Wed Mar 21 14:32:35 UTC 2007


Jennifer Schlegel forwarded this article to me, from the Pocono
(Pennsylvania) Record.  It shows how immigrants in the area who are
enrolled in ESL classes are automatically assumed to be "illegal".

This is a very disturbing trend in the generally distressing but
increasing stories about illegal immigrants and their "failure"
immigrants to learn English, etc. Statistics seem to usually indicate that
there are far more immigrants who *can't* get into ESL classes because
there isn't enough funding for them, but the immigrant lawyer mentioned
(Camerota) doesn't seem to know that.


Hazleton chief: Stats hide truth of immigrant crime

MICHAEL RUBINKAM Associated Press Writer March 21, 2007

SCRANTON The crime rate in Hazleton declined at the same time its Hispanic
population was exploding, but the numbers do not tell the whole story, the
police chief testified Tuesday at a federal trial over the city's
illegal-immigrant crackdown. Hispanic groups and illegal immigrants are
suing Hazleton to overturn a new city law that targets landlords who rent
to illegal immigrants and businesses that employ them. Mayor Lou Barletta
has repeatedly invoked rising crime, and particularly violent crimes, as a
justification for the crackdown. Violent crime in Hazleton increased more
than 70 percent since 2001.

In court Tuesday, police Chief Robert Ferdinand was confronted with police
records showing that only about 40 more crimes were committed in 2006 than
in 2001 a period when thousands of Hispanics moved to the city and that
only a small number of illegal immigrants were arrested. Ferdinand said
the reports are just the "tip of the iceberg" of Hazleton's crime problem.
He said he believes illegal immigrants are responsible for many more
crimes than the statistics indicate because police officers often failed
to indicate a suspect's immigration status on their arrest reports.

"The thrust of the police department is to solve crimes. We're not
concerned with suspects' immigration legality, we're concerned with their
criminality," he said. He also said the nature of crime in the city of
more than 30,000 people is changing. A number of street gangs have moved
into Hazleton and started dealing drugs and stockpiling weapons, he said.
He said the dealers are willing to use violence to protect their turf, and
were recruiting illegal immigrants. Illegal immigrants who join gangs such
as the Latin Kings "feel they have far less to lose," he said. "They think
the worst that will happen to them is being sent back to their country."

An immigration expert called by the city, Steven Camarota, testified that
between 1,500 and 3,400 illegal immigrants live in Hazleton. His estimate,
based on the number of English as a Second Language students attending
Hazleton schools, was the first time anyone has tried to tabulate the
number of illegal immigrants in the city. The high end of the range would
mean that more than 10 percent of Hazleton's residents are in the country
illegally. Because illegal immigrants tend to earn less money and pay
fewer taxes, they are a significant drain on federal, state and local
governments, said Camarota, director of research at the Center for
Immigration Studies in Washington. The group advocates for tighter
controls on immigration.

"If the illegals leave, the costs leave with them," he said. "If other
communities were to adopt the same policies as Hazleton, that itself would
have a big effect and more illegals would decide to go home." The nonjury
trial is expected to conclude Thursday. In court, the police chief spoke
in detail Tuesday about a series of crimes that prompted Barletta to push
through the ordinance last summer. Over the course of eight days in May
2006, police arrested a 14-year-old drug dealer and illegal immigrant for
firing a gun on a playground, investigated a slaying for which four
illegal immigrants were eventually arrested, and took down a large drug
organization operating out of a barber shop, some of whose members were
illegal immigrants, Ferdinand said.

"I don't know how much more of the tip of this particular iceberg that I
need to see before I order hard rudder," Ferdinand said.



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