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The Hazleton Syndrome, Social Security, and Nativists Fleecing America


Rev. David L. Ostendorf • Sep 15, 2010
LouBarletta

Lou Barletta

Hazleton, Pennsylvania—a nativist stronghold that early on crafted, enacted, and then defended local anti-immigrant ordinances—suffered a costly and significant legal setback last week when the Third Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a lower court’s ruling that the city’s restrictive ordinances were unconstitutional.  Combative as ever, and apparently oblivious to the costs, mayor Lou Barletta vowed to take the legal battle to the Supreme Court.

Since 2006 Hazleton has raised and spent some $2.4 million to defend its ordinances in court, asserting that it has never spent a dollar of taxpayer money. Other “Hazleton Syndrome” communities—enactors of anti-immigrant ordinances that are also likely to be spurned by the courts—have likewise laid out a small fortune defending their actions. Whether via “private donations” or taxpayer dollars, the nativists have racked up over $6 million in legal fees already—a high cost to defend a failed ideological venture aimed at scoring ever-elusive political points in the immigration debate.  How they justify and get away with such expenditures—especially when they tap the public treasury—remains one of the great head-scratching mysteries of the nativist movement.  Why their constituents tolerate feeding the insatiable, costly appetite of Kris Kobach and the Immigration Reform Law Institute (IRLI) to conjure up and then defend these losing ordinances is even more curious.  Nativists fleecing America.

And there’s more. The Tanton Network—and especially its FAIR flagship—has for years gone to great lengths to expose the alleged costs of undocumented immigrants to the states and the nation.  But with regard to Social Security payments alone, according to Edward Schumacher-Matos in the Washington Post last week, undocumented immigrants had paid, by 2007, an astonishing $120 -$240 billion (net) to the trust fund. Citing the chief actuary of the Social Security Administration, Schumacher-Matos wrote that in 2007 alone undocumented immigrants paid $12 billion into the trust, far exceeding the estimated $1 billion that some 180,000 may have received in fraudulent benefits. Little, if any, of those payments will ever return in benefits to those immigrants who paid.

“Adding to the Social Security irony,” he wrote, “is that restrictionists are mostly older or retired whites from longtime American families.  The very people, in other words, who benefit most from Social Security payments  by unauthorized immigrants.”  And most likely the very people who also contribute to or pay taxes to cover the fleecing exploits of the Tanton Network nativists.

In recent years nativists have become adept at chasing phantom rabbits down endless legal, policy, and political trails, entertaining their crowds and convincing them that their restrictionist, white nationalist agenda is “in the public interest.”  The cost in real dollars has been high, and it continues to rise.  The human cost in misery, injury, and death has been even higher.  That nativists fleecing communities and country continues is a reflection of just how inattentive some are to the true cost of their own ideology.  That the Social Security system—the bulwark of middle class entitlements—stands on the backs of low-wage immigrants is a reflection of just how jaded that ideology has become.

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