Last month, in a raucous meeting, the mayor and City Council passed the Illegal Immigration Relief Act. (Barletta wore a bulletproof vest because, he says, Hazleton is menaced by a surge in crime committed by illegal immigrants.) The act imposes a $1,000-per-day fine on any landlord who rents to an illegal immigrant, and it revokes for five years the business license of any employer who hires one.
The act also declares English to be the city's official language. Employees are forbidden to translate documents into another language without official authorization.
But as the law began to get publicized, Barletta began to have some regrets. It appeared that, in actuality, immigrants of all stripes were important members of the Hazelton community. Even before the law came into effect, Barletta ruefully reported, "some Mexican restaurants say business is off 75 percent" as the town's Latino population packed up.
Haha, I kid! Not about the downturn from Mexican restaurants. That actually happened. I'm kidding that Barletta was rueful about it. Nope -- that was the example he cited to prove the law was working!
The law doesn't take effect for another month. But the Republican mayor already sees progress. "I see illegal immigrants picking up and leaving -- some Mexican restaurants say business is off 75 percent," Barletta says. "The message is out there."
Anyway, Reason Magazine's Hit & Run blog reports that Barletta is mulling a run for Congress in Pennsylvania's 11th District against Democratic incumbent Paul Kanjorski. It would be a reprise of their 2002 contest, which Kanjorski won by 14 points.
It's testament to the degree of anti-immigrant psychosis that has infected so much of American politics that a man who brags about driving businesses out of his own town is expected to be more competitive this time around than he was in 2002 -- a good year for Republicans overall.
Link to the 2007 Weblog Award Polls: Vote Debate Link