Sunday, July 13, 2014





Hazleton running short to defend immigrant law

City might have to dip into general fund to pay legal bills, mayor says.


April 18. 2013 11:46PM
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HAZLETON — The city has burned through nearly $500,000 in private donations and might have to use taxpayer funds as it continues to defend its landmark but never enforced crackdown on immigrants in the U.S. illegally.


Hazleton collected money from thousands of individual donors around the country as it tried to fend off a legal challenge brought by opponents of the Illegal Immigration Relief Act of 2006. But contributions made through the city’s Small Town Defenders website have long since dried up, and the legal defense fund is down to its last couple hundred dollars, Mayor Joseph Yannuzzi said Thursday.


The last donation, in the amount of $100, arrived in July, he said.


Hazleton still owes about $20,000 to its lawyer. Without a fresh infusion of donor cash, taxpayers in the economically struggling city will wind up footing the legal bill.


“It’s going to have to come out of the general fund. That is something we just don’t want to do,” Yannuzzi said. “But if we have to, we have to. We do have this obligation to pay it and we have an obligation to follow through.”


The law, which would deny permits to businesses that hire people in the country illegally and fine landlords who rent to them, has been tied up in federal courts for seven years.


Former Mayor Lou Barletta advocated for the crackdown after two such immigrants were charged in a fatal shooting. Barletta, who rose to national prominence as a result of his stand and is now a congressman, argued that illegal immigration brought drugs, crime and gangs to the city and overwhelmed police, schools and hospitals.


Hazleton’s ordinance, and a companion measure that would require prospective tenants to register with City Hall and pay for a rental permit, spurred similar laws around the country.


Opponents of the local laws say they usurp the federal government’s exclusive power to regulate immigration.


The U.S. Supreme Court considered the Hazleton case two years ago and threw out a ruling by the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that prevented the city from enforcing the immigration regulations.


The lower court reheard the case in August 2011 but has yet to issue a ruling. It could wind up in the Supreme Court again, Yannuzzi said, spurring thousands of dollars of additional legal fees.




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