SCRANTON - Code enforcement officers in Hazleton never received training in how to verify immigration papers, despite the city's intention to enforce laws targeting illegal immigrants, several witnesses testified last week.
The officers, Rich Wech and Paul Kattner, said they were unfamiliar with how the city's Illegal Immigration Relief Act would work and what their responsibilities would be.
The testimony Friday came in the fifth day of a test case over the legality of local efforts to curb illegal immigration.
Hazleton's ordinance, passed last summer, imposes fines on landlords who rent to illegal immigrants and denies business permits to companies that employ them. A companion measure requires tenants to register with City Hall.
The American Civil Liberties Union sued to overturn the measures, saying that only the federal government has jurisdiction over immigration matters. U.S. District Judge James M. Munley blocked enforcement of the laws pending trial, which will continue this week.
City engineer Bob Dougherty, who supervises the code enforcement office, testified there were no procedures to investigate alleged violations of the ordinance.
But city attorney Kris Kobach attributed the lack of operational policies to the judge's order blocking enforcement.
Dougherty also testified that he and other city officials were usually asked for their input before City Council considered a new law. But he said they didn't know about the Illegal Immigration Relief Act until it was brought before council.
"I learned after the fact that the mayor got the ordinance off the Internet," Dougherty said.
Plaintiffs' attorneys contend that Hazleton Mayor Lou Barletta, who testified last week that he "had to do something" to address what he believed to be rising crime and violence caused by illegal immigrants, drafted the ordinance and submitted it to City Council in three days - just weeks after four illegal immigrants were charged with killing a Hazleton man.
Barletta had also testified that, without relying on any data, he determined that illegal immigrants were draining resources in health care, education and police overtime.
But Sam Monticello, Hazleton's director of administration, testified Friday that no mention was made of the alleged rising cost of illegal immigrants in the last city budget.