- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 5, 2006

Mayor Louis Barletta of Hazleton, Pa., yesterday told senators at a special “field hearing” in Philadelphia that illegal aliens have strained his city’s services and brought a wave of crime.

“As the mayor, I have had enough,” Mr. Barletta told the Senate Judiciary Committee yesterday, as Congress, in an unusual move, began holding hearings outside Washington to gauge public opinion on pending immigration legislation.

“We’ve seen a dramatic increase in gang-style graffiti, some of which has included threats to kill police officers,” Mr. Barletta said of his small town in the foothills of the Pocono Mountains in northeastern Pennsylvania.

“This graffiti has marred an award-winning redevelopment project that replaced vacant factories with family homes. Now, those homes, those families, are threatened by hoodlums who don’t respect people or their property.”

Mr. Barletta said four men charged with murder in the fatal shooting of 29-year-old Derek Kichline were in the U.S. illegally, including one, who had been arrested in various other jurisdictions — and released without deportation — eight times.

The day after Mr. Kichline’s death in May, he said, a 14-year-old fired shots in a crowded city playground. The teen — an illegal alien — had 10 bags of crack cocaine when he was arrested.

At the same hearing, New York Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg told senators that his city of 8 million is home to about 500,000 illegal aliens that it relies upon.

“Although they broke the law by illegally crossing our borders or overstaying their visas and our businesses broke the law by employing them, our city’s economy would be a shell of itself had they not,” he said.

“And it would collapse if they were deported. And the same holds true for our nation.”

Congressional leaders say the hearings are needed to help lawmakers determine how to proceed with vastly different immigration reform passed by the House and Senate.

The House last year approved legislation to tighten the borders and begin enforcing existing laws that call for the deportation of illegal aliens.

The Senate earlier this year approved a bill to improve border security, but it also calls for granting citizenship to about 10 million illegal aliens and would create a guest-worker program that would bring hundreds of thousands of new foreigners into the U.S. each year.

Polls show that most voters, like Mr. Barletta, want members of Congress to prove they can secure the border and enforce the laws they passed decades ago before addressing new challenges such as the guest-worker program.

At a similar hearing held yesterday by the House International Relations Committee in San Diego, Border Patrol agents and local sheriffs described situations similar to Hazleton’s.

But Leroy Baca, sheriff of Los Angeles County, warned members of the committee that if they deport the illegal aliens now in the U.S., the costs of consumer goods here will double or triple.

Rep. Zoe Lofgren, California Democrat, observed that as far as the threat of terrorism goes, Congress should direct its attention to the northern border, which is longer and has fewer Border Patrol agents.

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