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Hazelton, Pa. mayor speaks on immigration

January 21, 2007|by KATE S. ALEXANDER

CHAMBERSBURG, PA. - "Illegal is illegal," Lou Barletta said.

Surrounded by enlarged headlines from coverage of his crusade for immigration reform, Barletta, the mayor of Hazleton, Pa., leaned forward over the podium and repeated the phrase for the crowd.

"Illegal is illegal. I know a lot of nice people who run stop signs, but it doesn't matter how nice they are, illegal is illegal, and they will be pulled over," he said.

Barletta addressed about 90 people gathered Saturday at the Quality Inn in Chambersburg for the first countywide monthly breakfast of the Franklin County Republican Party.

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Known for his position on immigration reform, Barletta spoke of his city and its fight against the "nuisance" of illegal immigration.

Barletta said Hazleton is being challenged in court by the American Civil Liberties Union for its ordinance, known as the Illegal Immigration Relief Act, designed to stem illegal immigration by punishing those who hire or harbor them.

The ordinance, which cannot be enforced while it is being challenged in court, punishes companies that hire illegal immigrants, fines landlords who rent to illegal immigrants and makes English the official language of Hazleton, Barletta said.

While Barletta spoke of the situation in Hazleton and America, he also encouraged the audience to support the cause of Hazleton while thanking the Franklin County Republican Party for its donation to the City of Hazleton Legal Defense Fund.

"We are a battleground," he said. "Illegal immigration is not just a federal issue, it is a local issue."

Chambersburg Mayor John Redding Jr. said the issue of illegal immigration is familiar to most Americans.

"Thousands of communities in the country have the same problem," Redding said. "We face the issue here in Chambersburg."

Ann V. Null came from Herndon, Va., to listen to Barletta speak.

"We have some of the same things happening in our town," Null said. "And we are only four square miles."

James Taylor Sr., chairman of the Franklin County Republican Party, said the party will address a different issue at each monthly breakfast.

However, having illegal immigration as the first topic was not a coincidence for Taylor, who has a personal connection to the issue.

"I joined the Minutemen (Minutemen Civil Defense Corp. Inc.), and have stood on the border in Arizona," Taylor said. "This issue is important to me."

Barletta finished his address to applause, a standing ovation and praise from the crowd.

"It was excellent," Redding said. "I have to give him credit for what he is doing."

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