October 7th, 2006

Immigrant Law” examined for Scranton, or, Hazleton, exported.

Immigrant law in city explored

There are 46 miles of hard road and heavy-duty truck traffic between downtown Hazleton and the heart of Scranton, but City Council President Judy Gatelli would have you believe that it’s a smooth ride for illegal immigrants.

Interestingly, Mrs. Gatelli has a strong voice echoing her contention that there’s an exodus heading north on Interstate 81 now that Hazleton has passed an ordinance that says businesses can not employ or sell goods to illegal immigrants and landlords can not rent to them.

“We’ve watched people pick up in the middle of the night and move away, and, from what I understand, they’ve moved to Scranton,” said Hazleton Mayor Lou Barletta, who has found himself in the national spotlight since introducing the ordinance, which he recently signed. “If they were legal, they wouldn’t pick up like that and move.”

Admittedly, Mrs. Gatelli has neither hard numbers nor official estimates of the number of illegal immigrants in the city. However, she does have a feeling they are here, and she wants to do something about that.

“I have asked that we get a copy of Hazleton’s ordinance and review it because the illegal immigrants are coming here from Hazleton,” she said. “I know that they are doing this because I’ve spoken to some of them and have asked them where they are from, and they’ve told me that they’re coming here from Hazleton. (That) is wrong, and it must be stopped.”

Though nothing has been proposed formally, two other council members want to determine if there is a problem.

“At the moment, this is an exploratory thing only,” Sherry Nealon Fanucci said. “We don’t have all of the details and what we’d like to do is find out what is the status of illegal immigrants here in Scranton.”

“We are looking at only those who are illegally here,” Janet Evans said.

Bob McTiernan declined to comment on the issue. Bill Courtright said he would be willing to look at Hazleton’s ordinance but cautioned that it was only to understand that city’s new law.

Mayor Chris Doherty, however, is not interested.

“I am surprised that Mrs. Gatelli is doing this,” the Mayor said. “I am friends with Mr. Barletta and I like him, but I don’t support this.”

The 2005 Census Bureau revealed that, since 2000, there are 16,000 people of Hispanic origin new to Northeastern Pennsylvania, bringing the total number of Hispanics living in the region to 35,660.

However, it is the illegal immigrants Mr. Barletta wanted to send packing because they place a strain on the local economy, particularly police, hospitals and schools. That is what led to the Hazleton ordinance.

“The overcrowding at schools and hospitals are dramatic because of illegals,” he said. “A great case in point is when we began our English as a second language program in our schools, we had two teachers and a budget of $500. Now, five years later, we have 23 teachers and a budget of $875,000.”

If, indeed, there is a problem taking shape here it has not shown up on the police blotter.

“Everything has been the same here since Hazleton announced their new policy,” police Chief David Elliott said. “For the most part, I haven’t seen anything that jumps out. I think we have everything in place for (illegal immigrants) with the only problem I think is that we need more local field officers from Immigration.”

Contact the writer:

Does this piss me off? Yes it pisses me off. I was disappointed, but not overly surprised, that a stuck-in-the-fifties community like Hazleton would do such a thing. I am horrified that a seemingly-forward-looking city like Scranton should gaze upon such a horror with fondness.

Then again — look at the names: Gatelli? Evans? “change is scary” was their campaign slogans, I think.


  1. comment by xradiographer on Wednesday, Oct 11th, 2006 11:45 am

    Peter Bagge on anti-immigration hysteria.

  2. comment by xradiographer on Tuesday, Oct 17th, 2006 8:07 am

    Op-Ed in the Scranton Times urging careful thought and the avoidance of hysteria. WARNING: 60-minutes is on the horizon!

  3. comment by xradiographer on Tuesday, Oct 17th, 2006 11:54 am

    John Cole Cartoon

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