The ACLU often claims that the American people are actually with us, by and large, on many of our issues. If the poll released today is to be believed, that claim does not hold true regarding the anti-immigrant ordinances mushrooming in Pennsylvania.
Pennsylvanians strongly support local laws that crack down on illegal immigrants, such as controversial ordinances recently enacted in Hazleton, Luzerne County, a new statewide poll shows.
Sixty-five percent of those polled support Hazleton’s action — designed to make the Eastern Pennsylvania community “the toughest place on illegal immigrants in America,” according to its mayor — and nearly two out of three (63 percent) say they would back similar laws in their communities, the survey conducted by Susquehanna Polling and Research found.
About 78 percent of Pittsburgh-area residents supported the law — the strongest support of any region in the state.
The ACLU does not support illegal immigration. Our main beef with these resolutions is that they turn untrained individuals into immigration agents. There is no way that business and property owners are well trained enough to discern legal from illegal immigrants, or legal from fake documents, and so it will be easier for them to just discriminate against anyone they suspect of being foreign-born.
Another issue is the ‘English-only’ provisions in some of these ordinances that would prevent legal residents and United States citizens from obtaining important information from their government. It also prevents non-English speaking legal residents or citizens from effectively communicating with their elected officials, infringing on their First Amendment and equal protection rights.
Immigration is a complicated issue, and one that causes anxiety in the ACLU membership. We’ve called on some our members to speak against the resolution in places like Altoona, only to have them say “why would we want to do that?”
I’m curious about what folks think. Why is this issue so divisive? For those who oppose these ordinances, what are your ideas for changing the views of those who support them? Do you think people would be more likely to oppose them if they understood the full implications for legal as well as illegal residents? I understand that many people are frustrated by our broken immigration system, but how do we keep that frustration from boiling over into ugly and unconstitutional laws?
Lisa in Pittsburgh