Pennsylvania Congressman Lou Barletta shockingly throws his hat in the ring for The Donald Trump. Politico reports that Barletta said in a statement that “I like that he is willing to stand up and fight for the American people and as I did as mayor.” Let’s read between the line here and actually look into – or remind people – of Congressman Barletta’s rise to fame.
Jamie Longazel, sociologist from the University of Dayton and author of a new book on the subject, explains in a prior interview that Hazleton underwent a significant demographic change in the early 2000’s. The town’s population went for 95 percent white to 35% Latino in a few years later. A few years later, Mayor Lou Barletta sent his city of 30,000 people to the brink of racial hysteria over the murder of a white Hazleton resident. Two undocumented immigrants were accused of the crime, but were never convicted of the crimes. Longazel explains that sociologists use the term “moral panic” for what happened in Hazleton. He stated:
And at that point, basically the town, lead by Mayor Lou Barletta, began what we call in sociology, a “moral panic.” The newspaper started talking about how horrible this crime was, how this is a reflection of a bigger pattern where undocumented immigrants are committing all sorts of crime in the city- selling drugs, using drugs, etc, and draining the city’s resources.
There was no evidence to support any of these claims, by the way. And then just a few weeks later, the city passed the “Illegal Immigrant Relief Act,” a law that was going to punish businesses for hiring undocumented immigrants, punish landlords for renting to undocumented immigrants, and make english the official language of Hazleton.
In the months that followed the murder, Lou Barletta and city council passed the Hazleton Illegal Immigration Relief Act which fined any landlord who rents to an immigrant or any business owner who hired one. At the council hearing where the bill became an ordinance, Barletta wore a bulletproof vest because “Hazleton is menaced by a surge in crime committed by illegal immigrants.” A month later, Barletta told Washington Post reporters that he wants to make Hazleton “the toughest place on illegal immigrants in America.” He continued with “What I’m doing here is protecting the legal taxpayer of any race,” and ” I will get rid of the illegal people. It’s this simple: They must leave .” The case against the two undocumented immigrants was dropped the following year, but the heated rhetoric he used to galvanize his political career ten years ago now dominates the race for the White House.
Longazel states that he is not surprised that Lou Barletta has endorsed Donald Trump for president. He calls Trump’s politics “an extension of the race-baiting that catapulted Barletta into higher office and that politicians on the right have been employing for decades now,” and points out that “both Barletta and Trump have ascended politically by playing to people’s frustrations and anxieties. It is one thing to acknowledge the public’s anger, quite another to misdirect it – especially with distortions.” For Barletta, it was undocumented immigrants. For Trump, it’s Mexicans, Muslims and other marginalized groups.