Crackdown on illegals takes toll in Pennsylvania town

Via CNN.com
10/31/2006

HAZLETON, Pennsylvania (AP) — Elvis Soto’s variety store
used to make money. But few customers have been walking through his
door lately, and his merchandise — calling cards, cell phones, car
stereos, clothing — is collecting dust on the shelves.

With bills mounting, Soto might have to take another job to stay afloat financially, and may even close the store.

On
Wednesday, a tough, first-of-its-kind law targeting illegal immigrants
goes into effect in this small hillside city in northeastern
Pennsylvania. But the evidence suggests many Hispanics — illegal or
otherwise — have already left.

That, in turn, has hobbled the
city’s Hispanic business district, where some shops have closed and
others are struggling to stay open.

“Before, it was a nice
place,” said Soto, 27, who came to the United States from the Dominican
Republic a decade ago. “Now, we have a war against us. I am legal but I
feel the pressure also.”

The ordinance, approved by City Council
in September, imposes fines on landlords who rent to illegal immigrants
and denies business permits to companies that give them jobs. The law
empowers the city to investigate written complaints about a person’s
immigration status, using a federal database.

Mayor Lou Barletta,
chief proponent of the new law, contends illegal immigrants have
brought drugs, crime and gangs, overwhelming police and municipal
budgets. He announced the crackdown in June, a month after two illegal
immigrants from the Dominican Republic were charged in a fatal shooting.

At
Isabel’s Gifts, owner Isabel Rubio said business is so bad that she and
her husband have put their house up for sale, moved into an apartment
above their store and started dipping into their savings.

“I am
in a lot of stress right now,” said Rubio, 50, a Colombian who moved to
Hazleton 24 years ago. “Every day, we hope to have a good day.”

Opponents
sued on Monday to block the law and a companion measure, saying they
trample on the federal government’s exclusive power to regulate
immigration.

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