The Hazleton trial resumed today with another appearance by Dr. Agapito Lopez, a resident of Hazleton and a leader in the Latino community there. His testimony underscored the xenophobia that lingers on the fringes of these anti-immigrant ordinances, and how they give implicit permission for latent racism to rise to the surface. Dr. Lopez read from the hate mail that he received after the ordinances were proposed. The first piece he received said that “European Americans” are becoming “dispossessed,” that “‘coloreds’ will take control,” and that the United States was going the route of South Africa, where “the whites have been stripped of their rights.” When asked his reaction to the letter, he quietly replied, “It made me very, very sad. We just want to be part of the United States of America, on equal terms.”
Other pieces of hate mail contained veiled threats. “We think you and Anna [Dr. Lopez’s wife] ought to think twice before you speak,” read one letter sent to the Lopezes’ home. As with the other letters, the sender of this neglected to sign his or her name. Another read, “if it’s brown, flush it down” next to a caricature of a Mexican man wearing a sombrero with the phrase “subhuman spic scum” written on it. Dr. Lopez testified that he has been identified as a leader in the challenge to these ordinances, and these letters were attempts to intimidate him. At the suggestion of the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission, he took the letters to the police, who told him they were not hate mail and that they would not be investigating them.
The morning also saw testimony from Jose Molina, Regional Director for Northeast Pennsylvania for Pennsylvania Statewide Latino Coalition (PSLC), who talked about his group mobilized to support the Latino community in Hazleton. PSLC is a plaintiff in the case.
Sara in Philly in Scranton