The following is the first dispatch from the ACLU staff attending the Hazleton trial in Scranton:
The trial challenging Hazleton’s anti-immigrant ordinance started today in Scranton in northeast PA with ACLU-PA legal director Witold “Vic” Walczak calling Hazleton mayor Lou Barletta an “opportunistic mayor” and the “chief story teller” in his opening statement, leading the mayor to bite his lip at one point and laugh at another.
Calling the ordinance “a shortcut through the U.S. Constitution,” Vic noted that the city has every right to weigh in on the immigration debate “but cannot pass laws to regulate immigration.”
Vic showed two tales of one city with the mayor’s belief that all that ails Hazleton is a result of undocumented immigrants and the Latino community’s belief that they have revitalized the city. “The mayor’s claims cannot be backed up by empirical evidence,” Vic said.
As recently as October, at a PA Press Club meeting, Barletta claimed that statistics are “for outsiders.” But in the defendants’ open, counsel Kris Kobach noted that there were three arrests of “illegal aliens” in 2004, five in 2005, and 19 in 2006. Defense counsel went through a long outline of reasons why he feels Hazleton is within the bounds of the Constitution. It was like listening to an evolutionary biologist spend hours talking about the bacterial flagellum. Not that I know anyone who has had to go through that torture.
The plaintiffs’ first witness, Dr. Agapito Lopez, took the stand this morning and stated that Hazleton was “a ghost town” when he arrived in 2001. Dr. Lopez was in the middle of cross-examination at the lunch break.
Andy in Harrisburg in Scranton