As the landmark trial challenging Hazleton, PA’s Illegal Immigration Relief Act ordinance continued Monday morning we first heard from two expert witnesses, one on behalf of each side.
First to testify was George Borjas, a Harvard professor of economics and social policy with extensive work on the economic effects of immigration. The plaintiff argued that Mr. Borjas was not qualified because he never conducted any direct studies of the labor market in Hazleton. The defense argued that although Mr. Borjas hadn’t studied the economies or employment markets of Hazleton, Luzerne County, or Pennsylvania, national trends can be boiled to the local level. The witness was admitted.
Mr. Borjas testified that between 1980-2000 the influx of immigrants, both legal and undocumented, has caused the wages of the native born labor force to decline by 8%. He talked about elementary laws of supply and demand, applied to the labor market, where an influx of immigrants flooding labor markets drives wages down.
If the Hazleton ordinance is successful in deterring employers from hiring unauthorized worker, wages would increase “in the short term.” Mr. Borjas insinuated that the reason the United States Chamber of Commerce joined the plaintiffs in the lawsuit was because the Chamber is a representative of employers, who are “profit maximizers” in favor of cheap labor.
The next expert, Professor Stephen Yale-Loehr of Cornell, has published over 200 articles or books on immigration law, co-authored an oft judicially cited treatise on the interpretation of immigration law, and practices law with a firm specializing in immigration law. Mr. Yale-Loehr was not being compensated for today’s testimony.
The general theme of the plaintiff’s direct examination of Mr. Yale-Loehr was to show that immigration issues are an extremely complex area of law. Mr. Yale-Loehr named a litany of different immigration statuses that an individual could possibly have; off the top of his head he described at least ten. So complex is immigration law that only a federal immigration judge can conclusively determine an individual’s immigration status.
According to Mr. Yale-Loehr, the procedure that must take place for someone to be deported from the country is as follows: First, the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency (ICE), a branch of the Department of Homeland Security, has to conduct an investigation, which is usually instigated by a complaint. If, upon completion of its investigation, ICE believes a person to be unlawfully present, it issues a Notice to Appear before an immigration judge. After the individual completes his hearing(s), the judge finally issues a determination. This process usually takes six months to several years.
Even after an immigration judge’s determination, a person can file a series of appeals starting at the Board of Appeals, then to the Federal Courts of Appeals, and ultimately to the U.S. Supreme Court, Mr. Yale-Loehr said.
The only time someone can be removed without a hearing is under the Expedited Removal system, which is only applicable when people are found crossing the border without documents within 100 miles of a U.S. border without documents. (Hazleton is farther than 100 miles from any border), said Mr. Yale-Loehr. Hazleton is farther than 100 miles from any border.
Sam Monticello, the city’s administrator, concluded his testimony this afternoon. Much of his testimony rehashed what he discussed Friday. Among the new revelations were that none of the City Financial Statements detail anything with regards to the city’s costs of dealing with illegal immigration; that although the city had greater than anticipated earned income tax receipts, the increase did not seem to Mr. Monticello to correspond with the population increase; and that one of the purposes of the Tenant Registration ordinance was to identify people who might have been cheating on their income taxes.
Robert Ferdinand, Hazleton’s Police Chief, was the day’s final witness. Mr. Ferdinand believes there are illegal aliens in Hazleton, but doesn’t know how many. The department has arrested some undocumented persons, said Mr. Ferdinand.
Sometimes the federal government issues detainers for suspects, whereby Hazleton police detain the suspects until the feds come and pick them up. Mr. Ferdinand says his department has no way of determining how many detainers they’ve handled.
Mr. Ferdinand asked his narcotics division for a list of their total arrests, along with an indication of which of the suspects arrested were undocumented. The Police Department has a computerized “alert” system which it uses to catalog arrests. From a query of this alert system, the narcotics department produced 21 incident investigation reports. The attorney for the plaintiffs, Tom Fiddler, scrutinized these reports, and found many of them to have no indication that suspects were illegal aliens. One report listed the crime’s victim of being suspected as unlawfully present. Furthermore, Mr. Ferdinand could not say how many convictions, if any, had resulted from these incidents.
Mr. Ferdinand was not able to conclude his cross-examination, as there was a bit of document shuffling related confusion at the end of the say. Mr. Fiddler suggested that court recess until morning to allow everyone to get their paperwork in order.
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