Tancredo 2.0


Roll Call (print edition) alerts us to some politics in Keystone State: Hazelton Mayor Lou Barletta, talk-radio-famous for his crackdown on illegal immigrants, might run for Congress against Democratic incumbent Paul Kanjorski.

Barletta lost to the veteran Congressman in 2002, but his anti-illegal immigration policies in Hazelton garnered national media attention. He's also so popular in his town that both Democrats and Republicans nominated him for re-election this year, after which he'll make a final decision about running against Kanjorski.

That was a weird election; Barletta started running before redistricting, when a scandal made Kanjorski look vulnerable, but Republicans and Democrats made a bargain to save some of their incumbents and gave Kanjorski a more Democratic district. In a good year for Republicans Barletta lost by 14 points. Cut to four years later:

Last month, in a raucous meeting, the mayor and City Council passed the Illegal Immigration Relief Act. (Barletta wore a bulletproof vest because, he says, Hazleton is menaced by a surge in crime committed by illegal immigrants.) The act imposes a $1,000-per-day fine on any landlord who rents to an illegal immigrant, and it revokes for five years the business license of any employer who hires one.

The act also declares English to be the city's official language. Employees are forbidden to translate documents into another language without official authorization.

The law doesn't take effect for another month. But the Republican mayor already sees progress. "I see illegal immigrants picking up and leaving—some Mexican restaurants say business is off 75 percent," Barletta says. "The message is out there."

The 11th district of Pennsylvania voted for Kerry over Bush by 6 points and it's only 2.5 percent Hispanic. Roll Call's take: "If Barletta gets in the race, Kanjorski will have his work cut out for him." I think that's right. Barletta is a bona fide rock star: He, Joe Arpaio, Jim Gilchrist and retiring Rep. Tom Tancredo are the Beatles of the border war. Those Republican consultants who think the anti-immigration wing is killing them in the long-term are reaching for the Pepto today. (And do you think the Tancredos and the Barlettas ever bumped into each other on the Mayflower?)

Kerry Howley on Mexican panic in our whitest states.