The following editorial appeared in the (Hazleton) Standard-Speaker. It does not necessarily reflect the opinion of The Tribune-Democrat.



Waving a small American flag, a pleased Amilcar Arroyo asked for unity and conciliation as he spoke at a news conference in downtown Hazleton after a federal judge struck down the city’s illegal immigration ordinance.

An hour later, Mayor Louis Barletta’s message was anything but conciliatory.

“We are very disappointed that Judge (James M.) Munley has ruled against all legal residents of the city of Hazleton,” Barletta said.

The decision that both sides in Hazleton’s divisive immigration struggle had been awaiting for so long was finally in. The ruling went squarely against the city and appeared on its face to be a complete victory for those who challenged Barletta’s ordinance.

But the reaction outside City Hall – where the mayor and lead counsel Kris Kobach picked apart the ruling from U.S. District Court – made it clear that this fight is far from over. The city will appeal to the Third Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia.

We haven’t come very far in a year. On the night that Hazleton City Council adopted the ordinance last summer, police stood in a line down the middle of Church Street in front of City Hall. On the west side of the street, was a crowd of mostly Latinos; on the east, a group of Anglos.

One city, two communities.

Regrettably, the court ruling will do nothing to bring the two sides together.

Realistically, nobody expected anything different. Had Munley ruled the other way, the plaintiffs would have appealed as well.

Advocacy groups that challenged the illegal-immigration ordinance believe the judge followed the law.

“It is a beautiful day; justice has spoken,” said Anna Arias, an activist in the local Hispanic community.

Kobach, who argued Hazleton’s case, saw no justice in the order.

“This decision is extraordinary,” he said. “This decision is activist. This is a decision that will not stand up under appeal.”

We’ll leave it to the lawyers and the appeals court to debate the merits of Munley’s reasoning.

While the facts of this case are argued in court, it will be perception that really matters. And perception depends on one’s point of view.

In the view from City Hall, we have a mayor backed by thousands of constituents who believe he is leading a just fight that the federal government refuses to take up.

From the perspective of many in Hazleton’s Hispanic community, the fight against illegal immigration is being led by a demagogue who is unfairly targeting Latinos in a battle that the city has no business waging.

Those two positions are far apart and bridging the divide will be difficult, if not impossible.

Both sides will continue to believe what they believe. While the nation continues to watch Hazleton, let’s hope the citizenry keeps the debate civil.

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