Towns Get Tough on Immigration

Immigration bills stalled in Congress, and now towns are taking up the issue by fining landlords who rent to illegal immigrants, and cracking down on businesses. Critics call it discrimination, supporters say it's common sense. Guests examine both sides of the immigration issue.

LYNN NEARY, host:

This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Lynn Neary in Washington, sitting in for Neal Conan.

From coast to coast, from Hazleton, Pennsylvania to Escondido, California, small towns and cities are protesting against federal inaction on the problem of illegal immigration with their own measures. They're passing English-only laws, and enacting ordinances that call for fines on landlords who rent to illegal immigrants and businesses who hire them.

The local officials say they have to do something, because illegal immigration leads to higher crime rates and puts pressure on government services. They also cite concerns about terrorism in the aftermath of 9/11. Advocates for illegal immigrants say these local laws won't stand up in court, and they have already started bringing lawsuits against them.

If these new measures are being considered where you live, we'd like to share from you. Tell us what's happening. And if you support the tough local laws or are against them, tell us why.

Our number here in Washington: (800)989-8255. That's 989-TALK. Our e-mail address is talk@npr.org. Later in the hour, our first post-election visit with the Political Junkie. If you have questions about the fallout in Congress or the new leadership on Capitol Hill, you can e-mail them to us now. Go to talk@npr.org.

But first, towns get tough on immigration. We'll talk with the mayor of Hazleton, Pennsylvania about their recent law, and with a lawyer fighting against these measures. Also with a landlord worried about the new measures in his town.

But first, joining us is NPR correspondent Jennifer Ludden. She covers immigration for NPR, and she joins me now in Studio 3A. Thanks so much for being here, Jennifer.

JENNIFER LUDDEN: Hi, Lynn.

NEARY: Let's begin with Farmers Branch, Texas, which is one of latest cities to enact this kind of local ordinance. Tell us a little bit about what's going on there right now.

LUDDEN: It's outside Dallas, this town. This is a debate that's been going on for months there, really kind of under the radar and just pop upped on Monday night, when the city council unanimously passed another one of these ordinances that essentially, like many of the others, will fine landlords who rent to illegal immigrants and businesses who hire them. So it's got a mechanism where local authorities are supposed to screen for legal status, find out if someone is legal or not. And it also made English the official language of Farmers Branch.

The main driver behind this was a city councilman, Tim O'Hare, who said he basically is out to improve the city. He wants to lure new business and just make it a more attractive place to live.

NEARY: You said it's a sort of happen under the radar. What's the local reaction today?

LUDDEN: It was very heated. It was a very divisive debate locally. About 400 people - according to local news reports - showed up, a spillover crowd. They were rallying and counter-rallying outside the city council meeting. And when the vote went through, there was applause. People stood up and celebrated the council members.

NEARY: So do you expect that there will be a lawsuit brought against this?

LUDDEN: Latino activists say yes. They're getting their ducks in line.

NEARY: And the basis for the lawsuit or…

LUDDEN: The main basis for the lawsuits that have been filed so far is that local towns don't have the legal authority to do this - that you've got decades, centuries of precedent that says immigration is under the purview of the federal government.

NEARY: Okay. And I just wanted to read an excerpt from this ordinance. Here it is: whereas in response to the widespread concern of future terrorist attacks following the events of September 11, 2001, landlords and property managers throughout the country had been developing new security procedures to protect their buildings and residence. So here we're talking about terrorism, not immigration.

LUDDEN: Yeah, remember, you know, here we are five years on - if you ask me why this is sweeping very - dozens of local towns, you know, there's two reasons: one, certainly, we have seen huge influx and spread of immigrants, and many of them illegal across the country into small towns. This is happening, and local communities are feeling it.

But the other thing driving this, it really goes back to 9/11. And we've seen a convergence of the issue of illegal immigration with national security. It's happening. Politicians have reached out tom people affected by 9/11. There's a newfound sense of this is not just about your local concern, but it's national security. And this is another reminder of the ramifications five years later.

NEARY: Yeah. We're talking with NPR's Jennifer Ludden about local ordinances regarding illegal immigration. If you'd like to join the discussion or have some questions, give us a call at (800)989-8255. We're going to take up this question with a local leader from Hazleton, Pennsylvania, because the ordinance in Farmers Branch - which we were just talking about - is similar to one that was passed a few months ago in Hazleton.

And those restrictions include steep fines for landlords who rent to illegal immigrants, shut downs for businesses who employ them, and they also in Hazleton established English as the city's official language. The measures are currently on hold pending an investigation into their legality by a federal judge.

And joining us now is the mayor of Hazleton, Lou Barletta. So good to have you with us, Mr. Barletta.

Are you there, Mayor? Hello, Mayor Barletta?

I'm afraid we do not have him on the line. Hello?

Mayor LOU BARLETTA (Hazleton, Pennsylvania): Hello.

NEARY: Mayor Barletta, are you there?

Mayor BARLETTA: Yes.

NEARY: Hi.

Mayor BARLETTA: Hi.

NEARY: Thanks so much for being with us, Mayor Barletta.

Mayor BARLETTA: Well, no problem.

NEARY: I just wanted to begin by asking you if you can just update us on the status of the Hazleton immigration ordinance. Where does it stand right now?

Mayor BARLETTA: Well, actually, a federal judge had put a - had issued a restraining it - restraining order on the Hazleton for 120 days. A hearing has been set for late January.

NEARY: Late January. So tell us a bit about the ordinance. Tell us exactly what it does. What is it prohibit? What are the penalties?

Mayor BARLETTA: Well, the ordinance would punish businesses that hire illegal aliens. And it also holds landlords accountable that harbor illegal aliens. And the penalty for businesses that knowingly hire illegal aliens will be a suspension of their business license if they are in violation of the ordinance. It also will allow the legal United States worker, lawful worker who has been harmed by loss of wages due to the suspension of the business license, it allows those workers to sue the employer for up to three times wages lost.

NEARY: What's been the reaction to the business community there in Hazleton to this?

Mayor BARLETTA: Actually, they've been supportive. You know, what we are experiencing here in the city of Hazleton is that the quality of life that attracts people to come to Hazleton and businesses to locate here was being destroyed by the drain that illegal immigration has had on our city. So the business community has been supportive, as well as the landlords who also are supporting what we're doing.

LUDDEN: Mayor Barletta, it's Jennifer Ludden. Can I ask you a question?

Mayor BARLETTA: Sure.

LUDDEN: You mentioned the quality of life, and I know you've talked about increase in crime related to illegal immigration and a particular murder that kind of set you off on this course. But yet you - the judge who issued this restraining order says in his order that you admitted you have no statistics to support these claims of increase crime related to illegal immigration. And I know a Los Angeles Times article actually found state statistics that show a decrease in crime.

Mayor BARLETTA: Well, that's neither one of those statements are accurate. We do have some statistics that I think illustrate the effect that illegal immigration has on the city of Hazleton's budget. We have a very small budget here, and we have 30 police officers in a city that should have 60. And one statistic that we're able to give that I think is significant and worth noting is that our budget for overtime in the police department for the year is $30,000.

The homicide committed by the illegal aliens on May 10th - where the 29 year old was shot between the eyes - that one homicide, the city has spent over $17,000 in overtime in apprehending those involved. That's over half of our yearly budget in one incident.

Today, we have spent over $100,000 of overtime, and the city is spiraling into debt. The vicious crime in the city of Hazelton has doubled. Although the crime rate has increased 10 percent, vicious crime has doubled. I do not need statistics to know we have a problem. You know, when you're seeing the quality of life in your city being destroyed like this, as a mayor, you have a responsibility to do something.

NEARY: All right. We are talking with Mayor Louis Barletta of Hazelton, Pennsylvania about local laws, local ordinances dealing with illegal immigration.

If you'd like to join the discussion, the number is 800-989-8255. Let's take a call from Alison. Alison is calling from Charlottesville, Virginia.

ALISON (Caller): Hi, my name is Alison, and I guess I just wanted to mention that this is something that even in our place like Charlottesville, Virginia, is starting to be discussed, and even six years ago in 2000 in a Democratic Party. But there was an issue that came upon a ballot where one city council member attempted to write in that for a tax break for low income people with -on their houses, they were going to give out a tax break to these individuals on an annual basis based on their income, and to make sure that these people had all appropriate documents and that this was only reserved for legal residents and citizens.

That did not make it on to the paperwork, but here we are talking about a tax break that anybody can apply for, although a certain income level without really good documentation checking. And really, it boils down to me is all about everybody's agenda. And if it's their agenda it's okay to break the law.

And as far as I'm concerned, until immigration laws are found to be unconstitutional - and that's a choice they can take - those laws are valid and must be followed. And if the federal government will not enforce them, I don't see anything in the Constitution that says we can't enforce them. It's up to the federal government to determine what makes you a legal resident in this country. It doesn't say anything about enforcement.

NEARY: All right. Well, thanks for your call, Alison.

ALISON: Thank you.

Mayor BARLETTA: And that's a great point, Alison. And one that - we expect to win this battle in the Supreme Court, because I believe that's where it will end up. We are not regulating immigration in any way or form. We are not determining who can come in or out of the country.

NEARY: But, Mayor, let me ask you though, when - another part of the federal law. What about civil rights legislation? That has been raised in some of these cases. I don't know the specific lawsuit you're involved in, but I know there are concerns about - particularly, with the area of housing, with people being discriminated again.

Mayor BARLETTA: I don't believe we're violating anyone's civil rights. In fact, I'm fighting for the right of legal American citizens. And I think that's what we should be doing. Somebody should be speaking up for the legal Americans citizens' rights.

It is illegal to harbor illegal aliens. I didn't make the law. I'm just enforcing the law that the federal government has enacted. So we are not violating anyone's civil rights. Until the federal government changes that law, I believe that all cities should enforce it.

NEARY: All right. Mayor Barletta, please stay with us after a short break, we're going to continue this discussion with Mayor Barletta of Hazelton, Pennsylvania, and NPR's Jennifer Ludden.

You can send an e-mail to TOTN at npr.org.

I'm Lynn Neary. It's TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.

(Soundbite of music)

NEARY: This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Lynn Neary in Washington.

We're talking about some of the tough new laws that target illegal immigrants and local communities. At Pahrump, Nevada last night, the town board voted to deny benefits to undocumented immigrants and made English the official language. They also made it illegal to fly a foreign flag unless the American flag flies with it.

We want to hear from you about these laws, if similar measures are in play where you live. Tell us what's happening. Give us a call at 800-989-talk. Our e-mail is address is talk@npr.org.

With us on the line is Louis Barletta, mayor of Hazelton, Pennsylvania. And with me here in Studio 3A is NPR's Jennifer Ludden, who covers immigration for NPR. And I believe she has a question for Mayor Barletta.

LUDDEN: Yeah. Mayor Barletta, how can you really expect to enforce this locally with businesses? You said your ordinances, that they'll be - have their license suspended if they knowingly hire an illegal immigrant. As you know, I mean, that's already federal law. And that little word knowingly, you know, it's where it gets hung up because there's a proliferation of fake documents, and the business owner says I didn't know it was fake. How do you see this being enforced there?

Mayor BARLETTA: Well, you know, there are many ways. Again, you know, we will work in coordination with the federal government and allow the federal government to do - to handle the illegal worker, the unlawful worker that is hired. We are asking businesses to enroll in the basic pilot program.

NEARY: That's a computer check for legal status?

Mayor BARLETTA: That's correct. And if a business does that, takes that precaution, as well as having I-9 forms - as you know, which they must have on file. But enrolling in a basic pilot program takes that extra step, and as long as a business is doing that, you know, they will be taking the precautions that they should be taking.

NEARY: I have a question, Mayor. Do you really have a firm idea, firm numbers of how many illegal immigrants you have in your community?

Mayor BARLETTA: That's probably the most asked question, and I don't know if there's anybody in this nation that could tell us that the answer. The federal government itself can't determine how many illegal aliens are here. You know, the estimate that I've heard is anywhere from 12 million to 20 million. So it's virtually impossible…

NEARY: Nationally, you're talking.

Mayor BARLETTA: Nationally.

NEARY: But you don't know in your local community or the percentage or anything?

Mayor BARLETTA: You know, if the federal government can't, you know, can't do it, we certainly do not have the resources. And how would you? You know, people, you know, don't come forward and tell that they're here illegally. So it's really an impossible task to know how many illegals you have in your city.

NEARY: Then it makes it even - then it makes it hard to know. I guess part of what's motivating this is your concern about a rise in crime and people taking jobs. But it's hard to know exactly to what degree illegal immigration really is causing those.

Mayor BARLETTA: No, not really. You know, unless there's a magic number that people need to exceed before you start enforcing laws, and you know, that's not something that I'm interested in. Illegal is illegal.

NEARY: All right -

Mayor BARLETTA: Whether it's one or a thousand, illegal is illegal. And I know by the number of crimes that we've had committed by illegals just this year, very violent crimes. We had a 29-year-old shot between the eyes. We had a domestic incident involving another illegal where he stabbed his girlfriend multiple times and jumped out of a second story window on top of a police officer as she stumbled out into the street with a knife protruding out of her stomach.

We had another man in a drug deal gone bad, an illegal shoot and kill an individual, while teenagers - who just came from a high school football game -were standing nearby. We had a 14-year-old illegal shooting a gun on a playground.

We've arrested an MS-13 member, who, as you know, is one of the most violent gangs in America. We have gang-related graffitis, spray-painting threats to our police officers. And we've had a federal drug bust involving more illegals that closed two downtown businesses. I do not need statistics to know that we have a problem here.

NEARY: All right. Thanks so much for joining us today, Mayor Barletta.

Mayor BARLETTA: Thank you.

NEARY: Mayor Louis Barletta of Hazelton, Pennsylvania, whose community has passed tough anti-illegal immigration ordinances.

And we're going to take a call now from Ramone. He's in Escondido, California. And Ramone, welcome to TALK OF THE NATION. Ramone, are you there? Okay. Ramone? Let's see if he's - hello. We're going to go to another call. Bree in Tucson, Arizona.

BREE (Caller): Hi.

NEARY: Hi, go ahead, Bree.

BREE: Okay. I live in Tucson, and in our most recent election we just passed English only. And we also passed two other anti-immigration ordinances. The first was one that does not allow students of illegal immigrants to attend state universities without paying out-of-state tuition fees.

And the other was that illegal immigrants are not entitled to bail and other kind of due process rights that we think of as inalienable. And I just thought, I mean, listening to this man talk that I really understand that it's horrible that these crimes are being committed, but that there's certain rights that people have regardless of where they're from.

NEARY: So you're concerned about these kinds of local ordinances?

BREE: Yeah, definitely.

NEARY: Are you doing anything in your community, or is there any kind of movement against these kinds of ordinances? And are you taking part in it, or what's the feeling in your community beyond yourself?

BREE: Well, a lot of people I've talked to are really disappointed. I mean, we're obviously a border state, and there's a lot of issues we have to deal with. But I think that there's others ways to do that. And I mean, the election just happened, and we haven't organized - I haven't been part of an organization yet, but I am part of a Democrat group, and we're going to try and get something going.

NEARY: All right. Thanks so much for your call.

BREE: Oh, thanks for taking it.

NEARY: And let's bring in Louis - Lucas Guttentag now. He is the director of the ACLU's National Immigrants Rights Project and is currently involved in the case against the ordinance in Hazelton, as well as similar suits in Escondido, California, and Riverside, New Jersey. And he joins us from NPR's bureau in New York. Thanks so much for being with us, Lucas.

Mr. LUCAS GUTTENTAG (Executive Director, ACLU's National Immigrants Rights Project): Thank you for having me.

NEARY: What is the basis for the legal arguments in these cases? Is it immigration law, or is it civil rights? What do you…

Mr. GUTTENTAG: Well, it's really both. It's - first, that immigration law is a federal area of legislation, and that the federal government sets immigration policy. The federal government enforces immigration policy, and we do not have a system in this country - and for understandable and good reason - where each town or each community can determine its own immigration laws, where we have a dozen, 1,000 or a 100,000 different immigration laws, each setting their own standards.

And one of the things that I think it's important to note is that as these different ordinances get considered and enacted, each one's a little bit different. And so they really set up a system where we have inconsistency. And so the core principle, as was mentioned at the beginning, is that the courts have consistently said that immigration policy has to be set by Congress.

Secondly, these local ordinances lead to and cause discrimination, because as Mayor Barletta had to acknowledge, he doesn't know and no one knows who's documented, who's undocumented, who lives in a family made up of citizens of permanent residences of documented persons, of undocumented persons. And what these ordinances do is sweep too broadly and essentially say to everyone who looks our sounds foreign in whatever that might mean in a particular community you are not welcome. You are under a threat. And you will be subject to different scrutiny and to discrimination. And that's been the consistent pattern when these ordinances get enacted.

NEARY: And are you going to take on one ordinance at a time? I mean, you said that there's - each one is a little bit different. If they keep popping up, or are you just going to have to go around the country and keep fighting these ordinances?

Mr. GUTTENTAG: Well, what - we will if we have to, but we hope we won't. We are currently litigating a number of them, four at the present time. More are being considered. But really I think these communities are being sold a bill of goods. And what we hope is that - with calmer reflection and as courts begin to enjoin these various ordinances as the court already has in Hazelton, then other communities will stop and take a harder look at whether this is really appropriate policy, and it's not.

And I'd like to go back to a point that was made at the beginning about national security. The federal government, the inspector general of the social security administration and others have said don't engage in this kind of verification process, across the board mandatory verification, which is what the Hazelton ordinance tries to command, because there'll be unintended consequences, including that what you do is increase the number, for example, of counterfeit documents. And that, in turn, as the inspector general specifically said, threatens national security.

So there is a reason why Congress has gone very slowly and very deliberately. It's outlawed certain practices. It has prohibited employers from hiring undocumented persons. The federal government enforces that provision. It has recognized that those kinds of provisions cause discrimination. So as part of the federal law, it has strict anti-discrimination provisions. It's recognized privacy. It takes into account national security. These are very complicated issues. And that's precisely the reason why localities cannot enact their own ordinances as they're inconsistent with what Congress has already done.

NEARY: Just quickly, Mayor Barletta said that the business community is supportive of these ordinances. Are you finding members of business communities in various locations concerned about it?

Mr. GUTTENTAG: Absolutely. There are many businesses that are concerned about it. And I think we will see increasingly business responding and opposing these ordinances. And I think, you know, we have to recognize that a lot of communities around the country face a lot of difficult issues. There's no doubt about that.

But for example, an independent study regarding Hazleton said that immigration has rejuvenated downtown Hazleton. That there are enormous numbers of Hispanic businesses that have increased and contributed to the revitalization of that community. And when communities enact these kinds of ordinances, what they say to immigrant communities, you are no welcome here, and that's' ultimately counterproductive.

NEARY: I just want to get a call in before we run out of time here. We've got a caller on the line from Dallas, Texas. Randall, go ahead.

RANDALL (Caller): Yes, good afternoon. Can you hear me, sir?

NEARY: Yes, go ahead.

RANDALL: Okay. I just wanted to say that I'm from the Dallas area, (unintelligible) nearby. I firmly support what the Councils doing there. They're showing strong leadership where the federal government has clearly demonstrated they have no interest in enforcing the law. Therefore it falls upon the people to do so.

Secondly, I would say the elitists that want to encourage illegal immigration and has forced bilingualism upon Americans, the destruction of our culture, we haven't voted for that. I don't know how elected them to choose this for us. And get a reporter who doesn't have clear bias, as Jennifer Ludden does in the way she even phrases the question. You're not even presenting an adequate picture of the situation.

NEARY: All right, Randall. Thanks for those points. And I don't know, Jennifer, if you want to respond.

LUDDEN: Oh well, yeah, I would take issue with that. And, you know, I'm playing devil's advocate here for both sides but thanks anyway.

NEARY: All right. Thanks for you call, Randall. And Randall obviously, Mr. Guttentag, reflecting an opinion that certainly is out there. He lives very close to one of the communities where this ordinance is being passed. And actually let me pitch this to you, Jennifer. What's being raised here is that the federal government is not doing its job. It's not enforcing its laws and it seems to be frustration over there, which seems to be fueling…

LUDDEN: Which it's not. Yeah. And it's funny - I was just reading - there's actually a Supreme Court from, I think, 1850-something, having to do with immigration that said, even if the federal government isn't doing its job localities can't step in. So, I mean that's been said. But I do wonder, Mr. Guttentag, if you feel that even if you've got legal arguments on your side, by the sheer number of localities, signing on to these ordinances and trying to do something and pushing if there might some sort of, if not legal, political ball that gets rolling. Because Congress has, sort of, punted now for several years.

NEARY: Mr. Guttentag, before you answer that I just want to remind our audience that you are listening to TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News. Go ahead.

Mr. GUTTENTAG: Well, I think that there's some interest in part of communities. But it's because their interest is being misdirected and thinking that targeting so-called illegal immigrants is either possible on the local level or is productive.

What we need to do is look at what the real problems are that communities face, whether it's regard to the education system, the tax base, crime, population growth, and look and deal with those issues and not divert attention from real problems by saying that the problem is so-called illegal immigration.

Congress is looking at what's in the national interest - should we have a legalization program for undocumented workers, should we have more temporary workers and so on. But what the communities are doing really is disregarding or being misled.

And, you know, this is not anything new in our community, in our society. As immigration populations change and as we have new immigrants, there's always been a temptation to blame society's problems on immigrants. It happened when the Irish came, when the Italians were blame, eastern Europeans, Catholics, Jews.

I mean it's interesting that this ordinance is coming up in Pennsylvania because Benjamin Franklin famously said that the Germans of Pennsylvania, you know, were never going to assimilate and it was a huge problem that there were too many Germans there. So this is not something new, and what we've recognized at each point in our history is that we need to look at the actual problems, deal with it. If there are costs associated with immigration of all kinds, then communities need to be reimbursed for that.

But the answer is not to adopt laws that A: are unconstitutional because they step on the federal government's role, or B: are going to raise the level of discrimination against people who look or sound foreign. Because that's what these statutes do. They create a situation where in a community the city is saying anyone who speaks with an accent, who is a person of color, who doesn't look or sound like what you think is an American, that person is under suspicion, that person should be asked for their papers, that person should be evicted from their apartment. And that's not in the larger community's interest.

And that's a divisive tactic that ultimately makes it more difficult for cities to deal with the real issues. Crime is a problem. Let's deal with crime.

NEARY: All right. Thanks so much for joining us today Mr. Guttentag.

Mr. GUTTENTAG: Thank you very much…

NEARY: Luis Guttentag is an ACLU lawyer and he's involved with several of these cases. He joined us from our New York bureau. And quickly before the break, I'd like to bring in Roy Garrett. He's a lead plaintiff in the case against an anti-immigration measure in Escondido, California. He owns several rental properties there.

Mr. Roy Garrett, thanks for being with us.

Mr. ROY GARRETT (Landlord; Lead Plaintiff in Anti-Immigration Case): Thank you very much. I'd like to add that my wife is part of that lawsuit too, otherwise I wouldn't be.

NEARY: All right. Well, let me just ask you quickly before we have to take a short break. How is that Escondido ordinance affecting you as a landlord?

Mr. GARRETT: Right now, it's just sending us to court. But if ever becomes affective it will cause us to have to ask people for papers before we rent to them in order to protect ourselves from the sanctions under the ordinance. And if we have to ask A, we have to ask B, C and D. We can't, as you know, discriminate in that regard. Once we start we have to ask all our prospective tenants for their papers. That's going to be a little hard.

For instance, for the Marines just returning from Iraq, I'm not going to ask that man for his papers for God's sakes. But that's what this ordinance asks me to do in order to avoid sanctions. If we've follow the ordinance, if one our tenants is tagged as an illegal under the ordinance, somebody makes a complaint, then I have to throw them out in order to avoid sanctions and I've got ten days to do it.

NEARY: Mr. Garrett, stay with us. We're going to come back to you after we take a short break. You're listening to TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.

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NEARY: This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Lynn Neary in Washington.

Right now, we are concluding our show on ordinances against illegal immigration. And with me in Studio 3A is NPR's Jennifer Ludden. And Roy Garrett - who is a lead plaintiff in a case against an anti-immigration measure in Escondido, California - is still with us.

Mr. Garrett, I just wanted to ask you what you are expecting to happen in this lawsuit? What is your expectation, what is your hope?

Mr. GARRETT: Well, my hope is that it goes up in smoke, and I hope that's very soon. I would like to see Escondido not be the focus of this series of issues and not expend an awful lot of money on emotional energy both of the council and especially of the citizens in debating this. I would like for the court to issue a stay for the city to reconsider, perhaps rescind the ordinance or just put it way on the back burner but whatever method and wait for things to work themselves with Congress and, for instance, the Hazleton ordinance

After that, the city can take another look. I might not like - I'm pretty sure I wouldn't like whatever they come up with if they try and replace this ordinance. But they would have a better opportunity to talk about it and to think about it.

NEARY: And I'm just wondering, what is the reaction there in Escondido among other landlords like yourself and in the business community to this?

Mr. GARRETT: I don't think I can speak for the business community very much. But it deserves pointing out that the councilperson who proposed this ordinance did win her council seat but only by about 33 to 35 percent of the vote. That is she got 33 to 35 percent. Reverse that, 65 percent of the people did not vote for her. This was her ordinance and her biggest issue in the election.

So I take it from that that the city is sort of divided and not necessarily enthusiastic about the enforcement of this ordinance.

NEARY: All right. Thanks so much for joining us today, Mr. Garrett.

Mr. GARRETT: You're welcome.

NEARY: Roy Garrett is a landlord and a plaintiff in the suit against Escondido's immigration ordinance, and he joined us from his home in Escondido, California. And Jennifer Ludden, just to conclude. Earlier we heard Mayor Barletta of Hazleton, Pennsylvania say he's ready to go all the way up to the Supreme Court with the lawsuit there. Is that where this is going, to the Supreme Court?

LUDDEN: You know, it might get there. I mean the challengers to these laws are very confident that even one of them admitted to me, you know, if the towns keep appealing and insist it might. And it's interesting cause I, you know, we've heard from the mayor about crime rates and quality of life and social service costs and so forth.

But I think there's a real elephant in the room here, which is the U.S. economy. And what I see this really touching on is that in the whole immigration debate you don't hear so much from the businesses. The immigrants are here because they're working. The economy is supplying them with jobs. But everyone else is feeling the impact, you know.

And I think there's a real effort - even if these ordinances don't say it explicitly - there's a desire to make the businesses accountable for the illegal immigrants that they have brought into this country in some fashion.

NEARY: All right. Thanks so much for being with us, Jennifer.

LUDDEN: Thank you.

NEARY: NPR's Jennifer Ludden.

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