The Issue: Just when you think Democrats and Republicans can't agree on anything, along comes illegal immigration. Democratic state Rep. Harry Readshaw, of Carrick, and Republican state Rep. Daryl Metcalfe, of Butler County, have introduced anti-immigrant legislation similar to the law recently passed in Arizona. That bill requires suspected immigrants to provide documentation proving their legal status when police demand it. (Police must be making a "lawful stop" at the time.) Pennsylvania's proposed bill also targets businesses by requiring the county district attorneys to investigate -- and charge with misdemeanors -- any company hiring undocumented workers.
The case for the bill: "The purpose of this legislation is to offer every illegal alien residing in Pennsylvania two options: Leave immediately or go to jail," Metcalfe said at the press conference announcing the measure. "Whether you came to steal Pennsylvania jobs or to leech off of our state's fraud-ridden, 'close your eyes and verify' welfare system, once this law is enacted there will be absolutely no economic incentives for you to remain here." And if that's not enough, the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review has come out in support, so it must be good.
The case against it: Witold "Vic" Walczak, head of the Pennsylvania Chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, says Metcalfe's bill is repackaging legally dubious provisions that officials in Hazelton, Pa., tried to pass in 2006. A judge ruled those measures unconstitutional, though Hazelton is appealing the decision. But "whether you're pushing law enforcement to enforce immigration laws or leaning on local employers," Walczak says, you're "setting up a toxic environment where native-born citizens become suspicious of anyone who looks or sounds foreign." As for the limitation that officers be engaged in a "lawful stop" before they can ask for papers? "An officer can stop you any time he wants and ask, 'What are you doing here?'" Walczak says. "So that's not a meaningful limit."
What you can do: No legislative hearings have been set on the bill yet. However, the ACLU is sponsoring a forum on Arizona's law: 7 p.m. Mon., May 17, at the Friends Meeting House, 4836 Ellsworth Ave., Oakland. You can also contact the bill's sponsors directly: Rep. Metcalfe (717-783-1707 or 724-772-3110); Rep. Readshaw (412-881-4208 or 717-783-0411).