Thursday, July 26, 2007

The Hazleton Ordinance Smackdown -- High Lights of the Low Lifes

The United States District Court in Scranton has issued an over 200-page opinion, granting a permanent injunction against enforcement of the anti-Hispanic Ordinance parlayed into 15-minutes of infamy by Hazleton Mayor Lou "Hispanics The Source of All Crime, My Ass The Source of All Truth" Barletta.

We've been reviewing the Federal Smackdown and offer here some of the high lights of the Court's findings. We learn, not surprisingly, that the Hazleton goon squad (which earned the support and admiration of the Ku Klux Klan) was heavy handed in dealing with Latino and Hispanic residents, and somewhat less than direct and forthright in dealing with the Court. Most of all, we see again that NEPA works hard to justify its reputation, kids. The Court takes us through many stories of official, police, and mob intimidation of people in Hazleton based solely on what they look like. Of course, it is their fault -- they had the bad grace to be Hispanic in Hazleton.

The Barletta Klan first tired to get the plaintiffs tossed -- telling the Court that they didn't have "standing". "Standing" is the right to complaint about someone in Court. Not every person is entitled to right every wrong -- there has to be a legally-recognized harm suffered by the plaintiff as the result of a violation of some kind of legal duty owned by the defendant to the plaintiff.

A landlord plaintiff complained that, since the Barletta Bigots enacted their anti-Hispanic ordinance, requiring tenants to get a permit to rent a room, and drafting landlords as virtual law-enforcement agents, he couldn't rent his property. The Court had no problem rejecting the goon squad's argument that the landlord was "merely" complaining about not being able to do business with "illegal aliens".

We disagree with the defendant that these injuries cannot be recognized by the law because they constitute a complaint about an inability to rent to illegal immigrants. The plaintiffs testified that they were unaware of the immigration status of their renters. No evidence, therefore, indicates that the renters they lost were illegal immigrants. Such tenants may have been legal residents who did not desire to live in a town that appeared (to them) to seek to exclude Spanish-speaking residents. Such tenants may also have concluded that they did not want to register with the town and provide private information to the City as a condition of residing there. Perhaps they found the fees required for a permit onerous. In any case, we will not assume that the renters plaintiff lost were necessarily illegal immigrants.

Not content with driving landlords into bankruptcy by merely passing ordinances, apparently the Barletta Bigots enlisted the heavy hands of the Hazleton police to harass legal business people who had the poor manners to be Hispanic or Latino. One couple testified about how the police would park across from their restaurant, apparently and very effectively scaring away all business from people who had the poor judgment not to want to be harassed simply because of the color of their skins or lilt of their accent.

The Lechugas originally came from Mexico and had lived in Hazleton for 16 years. Legal permanent residents, they opened a store featuring Mexican-sourced food products. They weren't getting rich, but they were getting by -- until Barletta decided that Hispanics must be the source of all crime. After the anti-Hispanic ordinance was passed, their grocery business began to dry up and they ended up shuttering the place earlier this year.

Before the ordinaces passed, the couple also opened a restaurant featuring Mexican dishes. It did a good business -- until they and their customers were harassed by the Hazleton police:

A police car was often parked across the street from the restaurant, and after a police officer paid a visit, “people began to comment that the police [were] there to take the clients away when they came to eat.” This made potential customers feel “intimidated, and that is the reason why we lost our business.”

They closed the restaurant. Nice touch, Lou. You and your goons managed to eliminate two healthy businesses from your town. (The Lechugas had the class not to seek monetary damages from the City for their lost business. As a result, the Court dismissed them as plaintiffs after first deciding that they had standing and could have sought money, if financial compensation were their goal.)

The Court related many similar stories of legal residents and business owners who suffered losses or had to shut down previously-successful businesses because of the actions of Barletta's Bigots. The testimony elicited at the trial and highlighted by the Court showed how the governmental attack on a minority group created an atmosphere of hate in the NEPA burgh:

"They had people that were in fear because the police were stopping them on the sidewalks or stopping them on the driveway and asking for documentation just because of their looks. We have businessowners saying, we have bricks through our [windows], and we can’t identify who [threw the brick], but obviously it was because of the environment where we are living, where people think that it is okay to show that Latinos are not welcome here. There was all kind of fear, and what is going to happen with our sons. Should we still send them to school? What is going to happen to our church? Should we still go to our church?"

Way to go, Mayor.

Ah, but what of the illegals themselves? The goon squad wanted the Court to toss their claims out -- "They're illegal! They're illegal!" shouted the defendants. "So?" says the Court? Granting the Barletta Bigots a brief civics lesson, the Court ruled that due process applies to every person in our Country -- not just the ones that Barletta are comfortable with:

These plaintiffs claim that the rental registration requirements and harboring provisions of IIRA violate their rights under federal law and the United States Constitution, including their right to privacy. We find that the anonymous plaintiffs have standing to challenge Hazleton’s ordinances. They have suffered concrete and particularized injuries which are actual or imminent. These plaintiffs have either been forced from the property which they had rented or had been told by their landlords that they would have to be evicted due to the ordinances. . . . Similarly, plaintiffs would suffer an injury to their privacy rights if forced to turn over
private information in order to gain a rental permit. Such an injury is imminent, as plaintiffs intend to remain in Hazleton and would be required to obey the ordinance if it is enforced.

. . . . We reject defendant’s argument that these plaintiffs lack standing because they do not have authorization to reside in the United States . . . . First, the defendant appears to argue that because plaintiffs would be denied residency permits under the Hazleton ordinance they lack authorization to reside anywhere in the United States. . . . The tautology of this argument is likewise apparent: defendant contends that plaintiff would not be able to obtain a residency permit in the city and therefore cannot complain about being required to do so.

This argument appears to be a species of argument often heard in recent discussions of the national immigration issue: because illegal aliens broke the law to enter this country, they should not have any legal recourse when rights due them under the federal constitution or federal law are violated. We cannot say clearly enough that persons who enter this country without legal authorization are not stripped immediately of all their rights because of this single illegal act.

Fundamental to the American legal tradition is the notion that those accused of and convicted of crimes possess fundamental rights which are not abrogated simply because of such person’s alleged behavior. . . .The contemporary concern with and opprobrium towards undocumented aliens does not lead us to the conclusion that those who violate the laws to enter the United States can be subject without protest to any procedure or legislation, no matter how violative of the rights to which those persons would normally be entitled as persons in the United States. Our legal system is designed to provide rights and exact justice simultaneously.

The Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution provides that no State may “deprive any person of life, liberty or property, without due process of law; nor deny any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.” U.S. CONST. amend. XIV § 1. (emphasis added). . . . .

The anonymous plaintiffs are persons, and they seek to vindicate rights guaranteed them under the federal constitution. They have standing to sue in this court.


That last bit gives me chills. It says to the plaintiffs and, as important, to the world what the bigots like Barletta and the incompetent criminals like the Despicable Cretin and his Grey Eminence deny – that America values liberty and honors every man by providing a justice system intended to protect those liberties – even putative criminals, even non-citizens.

Even those “illegal aliens” – Even “they have standing to sue in THIS court.”

So desperate were the Barletta Bigots to avoid anyone looking into the merits of what they tried to do, the Court devoted over half its discussion to the standing and procedural issues. When finally it was able to address the merits of the legality of the loony ordinance (which the recently-departed Rick Santorum apparently had a hand in), the City of Creeps faired no better:

Whatever frustrations officials of the City of Hazleton may feel about the current state of federal immigration enforcement, the nature of the political system in the United States prohibits the City from enacting ordinances that disrupt a carefully drawn federal statutory scheme.

Even if federal law did not conflict with Hazleton’s measures, the City could not enact an ordinance that violates rights the Constitution guarantees to every person in the United States, whether legal resident or not. The genius of our constitution is that it provides rights even to those who evoke the least sympathy from the general public. In that way, all in this nation can be confident of equal justice under its laws. Hazleton, in its zeal to control the presence of a group deemed undesirable, violated the rights of such people, as well as others within the community.

Since the United States Constitution protects even the disfavored, the ordinances cannot be enforced.




Elsewhere:

Wilkes-Barre Citizen's Voice: Hazleton illegal immigration ordinance struck down
Allentown Morning Call: Appeals next in Hazleton case
Jurist: Federal judge strikes down Pennsylvania city illegal immigration laws
Scran'en Times-Tribune: Hazleton immigration ordinance ruled unconstitutional
Philly.Com: Judge strikes down Hazleton's illegal immigrant law
Hazleton Standardless Speaker: JUDGE STRIKES DOWN HAZLETON ORDINANCE
NewsMax: Judge Voids Anti-Illegal Immigrant Law in Pennsylvania
WaPo: Pa. Judge Blocks City's Ordinances Against Illegal Immigration
USA Today: PA Immigration law voided
NYT: Judge Voids Tough Anti-Immigration Law

1 comment:

Ronald 'More-More' Moshki said...

http://www.oregonlive.com/oregonian/stories/index.ssf?/base/news/1186808111210840.xml&coll=7

What's a little murder of a 15 year old girl got to do with anything?

It's the cost of business.