Monday, February 06, 2017

Pa. town whose Hispanic population has grown 800% waits on Trump's immigration orders

As the Hispanic population—and the number of Hispanic business owners—grows in rural Hazleton, Pa. (Best Places map), so does the divide among residents over immigration policies, Vaughn Hillyard reports for NBC News. Hazleton, a town where officials once tried to pass an ordinance to make it "the toughest place on illegal immigrants in America" now relies on immigrants, some of them undocumented, to survive. The Hispanic population has grown 800 percent in the past 15 years, with about half of the town's 25,000 residents Hispanic.

Some worry about the effect of President Trump's immigration policies, including his executive order that "declared that the federal government would begin working to re-implement the 287(g) program, which could authorize local law enforcement agencies to enforce federal immigration law," Hillyard reports.

"Over a decade ago, Hazleton generated national headlines over controversial immigration proposals," Hillyard writes. "With the City Council, Hazleton's then-mayor and now-congressman, Lou Barletta, authored multiple city ordinances in 2006" that "would have barred landlords from renting to undocumented immigrants and employers from hiring them. One ordinance also declared English as the city's official language. Ultimately, a federal appeals court rejected the city's efforts, saying immigration enforcement was the job of the federal government. The Supreme Court refused to consider Hazleton's appeal, so Hazleton had to drop its effort."

Mayor Jeff Cusat, a Trump supporter, wouldn't say whether he believed all undocumented immigrants should be removed from the city, Hillyard writes. Cusat told NBC, "Everybody has an identity and should be able to prove [it] if need be. If we can't prove who you are, how do we know what your intentions are?"

Some members of Hazleton's Latino community believe the rise of Trump has propelled discrimination—albeit often implicit—by some in Hazleton," Hillyard writes. Amanda Lara, assistant education director at the Hazleton Integration Project and the daughter of a Mexican immigrant, told NBC, "There are the undertones of what people don't want to label as discrimination or racism or don't want to call it that—but it's there." (Read more)

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