Sunday, September 02, 2007
BY LARA BRENCKLE Of Our Dillsburg Bureau
The nation's divisive debate on immigration came to the steps of the state Capitol on Saturday, with one side warning of an ongoing "invasion of illegal aliens" and the other urging an end to hate.
About 200 people, many holding American flags, gathered for a 21/2-hour rally on the Capitol steps, organized by Hazleton-based Voice of the People and Washington, D.C.-based Americans for Immigration Control.
Organizers said their aim is to bring attention to what they believe is the
At one point, Frank Scavo, chairman of Voice for the People, whipped out his cell phone and said, "I told you your voices would be heard in
Placing the cell on speakerphone, Scavo tried to leave a message for Sen. Arlen Specter as he urged the crowd to shout "Close our borders now." But Specter's voice mailbox was full, so Scavo dialed Sen. Bob Casey Jr.'s line, and the crowd shouted its message.
"This is to bring attention to the residents of
The list of speakers included a man whose niece was killed by an illegal immigrant and Joey Vento, the
Vento, who called immigrants "invaders," denounced multilingual education and policies that allow babies born to undocumented parents to be citizens.
"As far as anchor babies, you come here, you pop out a baby, you pick it up and go back to
At Third and State streets, about 20 supporters of the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania held a counterdemonstration, holding red or blue signs with slogans like "No Hate in Our Town" and "Respect All Workers."
In July, a federal judge struck down legislation, introduced by Hazleton Mayor Lou Barletta, that would have imposed penalties on companies that hired or landlords that rented to undocumented individuals. The ACLU filed a lawsuit to fight the plan.
At a news conference in the Sunken Gardens Saturday morning, representatives from a host of human rights groups pleaded for acceptance of illegal immigrants and to send the message, according to Harrisburg City Councilwoman Linda Thompson, that "hate has no place in Harrisburg."
Homer Floyd, executive director of the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission, said he was concerned that laws aimed at denying undocumented workers jobs might lead to overtly racist hiring practices.
Denise and Jamie Ceja, of Camp Hill, were among those standing with the counterprotesters. Jamie Ceja came to the
"I wish everybody could be the same," Jamie Ceja said. "That they try to get along."
On the steps of the Capitol, Steve and
Steve Ulrich said he brought five children, including his three, to the rally because he feared what unchecked immigration might do to their futures. Immigrants who enter illegally, he said, are "a big drain on society, a big drain on our services."
"We're a multicultural society, but where we draw the line is we want to be lawful, too," Ulrich said.
The event led to two verbal skirmishes among protesters and counter-protesters, but the contingent of more than two dozen Capitol Police quelled them quickly.
LARA BRENCKLE: 432-8374 or firstname.lastname@example.org