Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Lou Barletta-- Face Of The KKK, Face Of The GOP, Face Of America's Dysfunctional Political System


I once lived in Monroe County, PA. Nice, all-American area, currently represented by thoughtful progressive freshman Matt Cartwright. But when I lived there, Monroe County was part of the 11th CD, represented by one of the worst Democratic banking shills, Paul Kanjorski, who was elected in 1984, grew more and more corrupt (and powerful), and was finally dumped in 2010 by Democrats too sick of him to bother going to the polls. It would have been impossible for anyone with any degree of self-respect to vote for a crook like Kanjorski. Aside from being an NRA Democrat, anti-gay, anti-Choice, and pro-war voters were becoming aware that Kanjorski was using his senior position on the House Financial Services Committee to enrich himself and his family. In 2010 Democrats nearly ousted him in a primary but "almost" doesn't count and Pennsylvania's most preeminent racist, Hazleton mayor Lou Barletta beat Kanjorski in the general election, 55-45%. (Barletta only took 54% in Monroe County.)

Hazleton is a small city (population 25,340) in Luzerne County and Barletta had a fairly undistinguished career working for his family's business after doing poorly in school and then failing to make it as a professional baseball player. He finally made a fortune by contracting highway work from the government. He was elected mayor of Hazleton in 1999, where he sang a one note song-- a vicious jihad against Hispanics.
A federal judge in Pennsylvania yesterday struck down ordinances adopted by the City of Hazleton to bar illegal immigrants from working or renting homes there, the most resounding legal blow so far to local efforts across the country to crack down on illegal immigration.

The decision, by Judge James M. Munley of Federal District Court, presents a new roadblock to local officials who want to take action against illegal immigration after broad federal legislation to address the issue failed in the Senate last month.

Judge Munley ruled that ordinances first passed last July by the Hazleton City Council interfered with federal law, which regulates immigration, and violated the due process rights of employers, landlords and illegal immigrants.

The ruling resonated beyond Hazleton because the town was the first in the country to pass such measures, after its mayor, Louis J. Barletta, vowed last year to make the city “one of the toughest places in the United States” for illegal immigrants. Many other local initiatives were modeled on Hazleton’s ordinances, which were never put into effect because of the legal challenge.

“Whatever frustrations officials of the City of Hazleton may feel about the current state of immigration enforcement,” Judge Munley wrote in the 206-page decision, “the nature of the political system in the United States prohibits the city from enacting ordinances that disrupt a carefully drawn federal statutory scheme.”

Mr. Barletta said the city would appeal and would fight to the United States Supreme Court if necessary.

“I will not sit back because the federal government has refused to do its job,” Mr. Barletta said at a news conference on the steps of City Hall.

Judge Munley reached his conclusion after a full hearing of the issues in a bench trial, the first such trial in the various legal challenges to local ordinances restricting illegal immigration. The challenge was brought by the American Civil Liberties Union, the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund and Cozen O’Connor, a private law firm.

The judge emphasized that illegal immigrants had the same civil rights as legal immigrants and citizens.

...Mr. Barletta, the Hazleton mayor, has championed the city’s ordinances because he said illegal immigrants had unleashed a crime wave in Hazleton and had overburdened health and other public services.

At the nine-day trial in March, A.C.L.U. lawyers worked as hard to debunk those claims as they did to undercut the city’s legal arguments. They showed that 4 of 428 violent crimes in Hazleton in the last six years could be attributed to illegal immigrants.
Barletta and his racist allies on the city council passed an ordinance giving themselves the authority to fine landlords up to $1,000 for leasing to illegal immigrants-- as well as making English the official language of Hazleton, prohibiting city employees from translating documents into any language without official authorization, which sat badly with Puerto Rican American citizens.

So why bring up Barletta? Well, you can probably imagine that the immigration debate has stirred the wild beast in him. Yesterday it sprung into action. At a time when the Republican Party is trying to make nice with Hispanic voters, Congressman Lou Barletta is... going rogue.
Avowed immigration hardliner Rep. Lou Barletta (R-Pa.) announced his immediate opposition on Monday to a bipartisan Senate framework on comprehensive immigration reform, suggesting that it could be serving as an ill-advised Republican olive branch to Latino voters.

Barletta went on to say that the GOP should have no interest in providing a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, claiming that most are uneducated, government-dependent individuals who wouldn't support the party.

"I hope politics is not at the root of why we're rushing to pass a bill. Anyone who believes that they're going to win over the Latino vote is grossly mistaken," Barletta said, according to the Morning Call. "The majority that are here illegally are low-skilled or may not even have a high school diploma. The Republican Party is not going to compete over who can give more social programs out. They will become Democrats because of the social programs they’ll depend on."

..."It's amnesty that America can't afford," Barletta said. "We have to stop people from coming in illegally. This will be a green light for anyone who wants to come to America illegally and then be granted citizenship one day."
Looks like Barletta either didn't get the message, ignored it or... shot the messenger. Jed Lewison at Daily Kos shared the GOP message on how to talk about immigrants.
A top Hispanic Republican advocacy group co-chaired by Jeb Bush is so worried about how the GOP will respond to immigration reform that they are distributing a set of guidelines instructing congressional Republicans on how to discuss the topic without sounding like a bunch of neanderthals. The issue, according to the group, isn't really about substance. Instead, it's about using "tonally sensitive" language:
"Tone and rhetoric will be key in the days and weeks ahead as both liberals and conservatives lay out their perspectives. Please consider these tonally sensitive messaging points as you discuss immigration, regardless of your position," Hispanic Leadership Network Executive Director Jennifer Korn writes.

Before you even read word one from the memo, the fact that the group is more concerned about how congressional Republicans talk about the issue than how they vote on it is a pretty clear indication of just how backwards Republicans are on this topic. Usually in politics, advocacy groups try to achieve actual policy priorities. Here, they are just trying to stop their party from acting like assholes—and based on some of their advice, they must really think there's a lot of assholes in their party. For example, on their list of "messaging dos and don'ts for immigration reform," they say:

Don’t use phrases like “send them all back”


Don’t characterize all Hispanics as undocumented and all undocumented as Hispanics.
Had the Democratic Party not tolerated the gross corruption of Paul Kanjorski-- of course, now a sleazy lobbyist-- Barletta would never have won in 2010. That's our Beltway system. (I'm not certain of this but I believe that the Judge Munley who ruled against Barletta's anti-immigrant ordinance is Congressman Matt Cartwright's father-in-law.)

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