Thursday, July 26, 2007

Two towns, two different immigration policies

An article for the Kansas City Star shows two very different views towards illegal immigration, one punitive, the other tolerant. PS, Hazeltown's punitive law (that would fine landlords renting to, or businesses employing illegals) was struck down in Federal court

NEW HAVEN, Conn. | New Haven and Hazleton, Pa., two Northeastern cities led by descendants of Italian immigrants, are just 200 miles from each other.

But they are worlds apart when it comes to dealing with illegal immigration.

Hazleton Mayor Lou Barletta, a Republican, has said that illegal immigration is destroying his working-class city of 30,000 and driving up crime.

He pushed through an ordinance copied by towns and cities around the nation that would penalize landlords who rent to illegal immigrants and businesses that hire them. A federal judge could rule as early as this week on its constitutionality.

New Haven Mayor John DeStefano, a Democrat, has embraced illegal immigrants as an important part of New Haven’s economic and social fabric.

The city of 125,000 already prohibits police from asking immigration status.

On Tuesday, DeStefano launched a program to provide illegals with ID cards that will give them access to banks and many city services.

How did two Northeastern cities wind up on opposite sides of the issue? One reason is that New Haven, the home of Yale University, has a long history of liberal politics. Hazleton is a conservative city in the mountains of northeastern Pennsylvania.

New Haven “does have a tradition of championing the causes of outsiders,” said Scott McLean, a professor at Quinnipiac University and New Haven resident.

Ray Sanchez, a 36-year-old laborer, was one of 250 people who applied for an ID card Tuesday in New Haven. He said it would make it easier to open a bank account, which means he will not have to keep his cash stashed in secret places. It would also help him get a library card.

“We need to send money to the places we come from. For me, I feel better. If the police catch me, I have identification now,” Sanchez said.

DeStefano said: “I think New Haven is doing something that makes sense for New Haven. Service to one another in community, more than waving an American flag, defines the spirit of our soul.”

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