Hazleton immigrants’ charges fall

From the Associated Press

Hazleton Mayor Lou Barletta has repeatedly cited a May 2006 slaying as the impetus for one of the nation’s strictest community crackdowns on illegal immigrants.

But on Friday, prosecutors dropped homicide charges against the two illegal immigrants accused of shooting 29-year-old Derek Kichline.

The Illegal Immigration Relief Act, proposed by Barletta and approved by the City Council last summer, would penalize landlords who rent to illegal immigrants and businesses that hire them. It has been stayed pending court action.

Barletta’s critics pointed to the dropped charges as evidence that he jumped to conclusions when he said illegal immigrants were wrecking his city.


“This dismissal of charges adds to the long list of discredited claims Barletta has made in the course of demonizing undocumented immigrants,” said Witold J. Walczak, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania.

Barletta called Walczak’s statement “repulsive.”

“Derek Kichline’s family and friends will never see justice for his death,” Barletta said. “The fact that the ACLU celebrates this and turns it into a public relations spectacle is disgusting.”

Prosecutors said they dropped the charges because key witnesses were unreliable or unavailable, not because they were convinced the suspects were innocent. The two are to remain jailed until their deportation to the Dominican Republic.