Bethlehem’s police chief took a pre-emptive shot at the possibility of the city ever issuing identification cards to illegal immigrants.
On Tuesday night, Chief Mark DiLuzio told Bethlehem City Council: “I’m a police officer for 34 years and took an oath to uphold the law. I cannot condone the issuing of any state or local identification cards to individuals who are here illegally in this country.”
DiLuzio said during his police career, he has had first-hand encounters with many illegal aliens who had multiple fake driver’s licenses and identification cards.
“Many had a criminal history in multiple states and were here from other states,” he said, adding they had been deported but returned to the United States under different names with different state driver’s licenses.
The chief indicated any local action to offer IDs to illegal immigrants will only generate more confusion with a federal immigration problem that already is out of control – “creating and encouraging more unlawful behavior.”
No one on City Council responded to the chief’s comments during the meeting.
After the meeting, council president J. William Reynolds said: “It wasn’t even something we’ve thought about before.” He added, as far as he knows, there has been no discussion about the issue among council members.
Mayor Robert Donchez said he also is not aware of any movement by City Council to take action on ID cards for illegal immigrants. Donchez said he also has had no discussions with anyone about that issue.
DiLuzio spent most of his time addressing City Council by reading a letter Northampton County District Attorney John Morganelli sent to all police chiefs in the county.
Morganelli asked the chiefs to oppose efforts by their municipalities to grant benefits to individuals who are in this country illegally.
“As chief law enforcement officer in Northampton County, I am adamantly opposed to allowing individuals who are illegally in the country to integrate themselves by obtaining state-issued or municipal-issued valid identification cards,” wrote the district attorney.
Morganelli’s letter stated: “Recently, the City of Easton Council passed a resolution urging the Pennsylvania state legislature to allow illegal criminal aliens in Pennsylvania to obtain valid drivers licenses.”
Easton’s City Council took that action on May 28.
Morganelli also wrote that Allentown is considering issuing municipal identification cards to “illegal aliens” living in that city. The D.A. said that initiative has support from some police officers.
In March, Allentown’s City Council took a symbolic stand in support of comprehensive U.S. immigration reform. It unanimously passed a resolution recommending "federal enactment of rational solutions to fix our broken immigration system."
Morganelli wrote that the terrorists who blew up the World Trade Center skyscrapers and killed thousands of Americans on Sept. 11, 2001 used fraudulent driver’s licenses “to give themselves cover from their criminal activity.”
“A driver’s license is a ticket into American mainstream,” he wrote. “They allow people to establish an identity and gain a gain a foothold in communities.”
Morganelli warned that getting a driver’s license is a first step toward obtaining a commercial driver’s license to drive tractor-trailers containing hazardous wastes.
He wrote that in the past years, the FBI has put law enforcement officials on alert “for U.S.-based operatives connected to terrorist organizations” who may be in possession of commercial licenses and may be planning to use “truck bombs.”
Morganelli warned that terrorists from Yemen, Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran and other countries that sponsor state-sanctioned terrorism would have equal access to driver’s licenses issued by Pennsylvania, as would “gang members, drug dealers and other criminals from other countries south of our U.S. border.”
The district attorney wrote that many of the illegal aliens who have been arrested in Northampton County have criminal records in their country of origin or are wanted on criminal warrants for serious crimes committed in other parts of United States.
He said many of those individuals already are operating with fake identities and have numerous IDs, “making their identification just about impossible.”
“By opening up privileges such as driver’s licenses and municipal identification cards to those who come in and ask for them, we are allowing individuals to gain cover with potential bad outcomes.”
“For the safety of Northampton County,” Morganelli asked the police chiefs to read his letter at the next meeting of their municipal bodies, which is exactly what DiLuzio did.
The D.A.’s letter acknowledged many illegal immigrants have good intentions but “everyone here is in violation of U.S. law if they came across the border illegally.”
He noted it also is illegal to hire those people.
“I do not make the laws, but only enforce them” wrote the DA. “Granting benefits to those who are illegally in this country only encourages more illegal entry.”
While council didn’t respond to the police chief or the D.A.’s letter he read, two city residents attending the meeting did.
Thomas Carroll told council that Morganelli “hit the nail on the head and I commend him for being proactive on that issue. I ask you to seriously consider the words he wrote in that letter.”
Resident Al Bernotas told council: “Mr. Morganelli was spot on with that – 100 percent. I hope the city sees it that way.”
On another issue, council member Eric Evans asked the police chief about traffic and crowd behavior at the FIFA World Cup Soccerfest & Viewing Party events held at SteelStacks in south Bethlehem.
“Behavior has been good overall,” said DiLuzio. “That’s what we like to see, people enjoying themselves, not acting up.”
He estimated there were only about four arrests and two were not directly related to Soccerfest.
“One was somebody who showed up drunk, was turned away by security, said ‘I still want to go in,’ and got himself arrested. The other was a retail theft nearby.
“Today we had maybe one drunkenness and one under-age drinking arrest.
That was it.”
DiLuzio said 8,000 people watched Sunday’s game on a giant screen at Soccerfest, adding a previous game that started at noon drew about 4,000 to south Bethlehem. It was close to 3,000 to 4,000 today.”
Considering the numbers of attendees, he indicated the number of arrests was very low.
He said city police and ArtsQuest personnel directed traffic, acknowledging there were delays because of road construction. He indicated it took about 30 minutes for traffic to get back to normal.
Scott Hough of ArtsQuest thanked the city for its assistance with the soccer festival.
He reported that because the U.S. lost early Tuesday evening, there will not be a televised game Saturday at SteelStacks.
But he said the final game of the competition will be shown on July 13.
Motorcycles on Main
Council member Bryan Callahan asked the police chief if anything can be done about the noise of motorcycles on Main Street in the heart of the city, where many people dine outdoors.
“Is there a noise ordinance for Main Street?” asked Callahan. “A large number of motorcycles come through there and they’re revving the engines really loud.”
The council member, who lives near Main Street, said he’s gotten complaints from businesses and residents about the motorcycle noise.
He doesn’t ride motorcycles, but said some of them seem to lack a noise suppression system.
DiLuzio said he has observed what Callahan is talking about and agreed it is a problem, adding: “A lot of cities have similar problems with it.”
The chief promised to look into the matter and get back to Callahan.
He indicated police might be able to cite someone on an inspection code violation, if equipment on the motorcycle has been altered to make it louder.
New recycling director hired
In other business, City Council unanimously authorized hiring a new city recycling director, despite the hiring freeze it imposed in May.
The mayor announced that Michael Conway, who has served as deputy to the city’s recycling director, is being promoted to recycling director.
In early May, council passed a freeze on new hires for all city departments except police, fire and EMS -- unless it approved filling other openings, which is exactly what it did Tuesday night.
The city will save money two ways by promoting Conway. He will be paid less than his predecessor. And his position as deputy director will not be filled. That job paid $58,690 a year.
Conway will earn $62,415 a year. The annual salary of Thomas Marshall, who retired as recycling director in late May, was $76,787.
Conway was one of 20 applicants to replace Marshall.
“This was a sensible thing to do,” said council member Karen Dolan. “I’m glad he came through the interview process well. I wish him luck.”
Callahan said he doesn’t know Conway, but heard a lot of good things about him and believes he will do a good job as director.
He added: “The fact that is saves us a substantial of money for the rest of the year is a good thing.”
Park name not changing
During the meeting, Dolan said it has been brought to her attention that the city’s legal department was considering renaming Bethlehem’s Monocacy Park.
Her concern was that the name would be changed to Illick’s Mill Park.
She said some people do call it Illick’s Mill Park, but it was named Monocacy Park when developed by the WPA in 1935.
“The name ‘Monocacy Park’ is literally written in stone at the entrance,” said Dolan. “I’m here to advocate strongly for the actual name of the park.”
The mayor and City Solicitor William Leeson said there are no plans to change the name of the park.
“This is the first I’ve heard of it,” said Donchez.
Said Leeson: “The legal department has proposed to no one changing in the name of the park. There has been no proposal to change names or change the generic reference to Monocacy Park or even the formal name.
“No such proposal was made and I welcome the opportunity to correct the record.”
Dolan said she was happy to hear the name is not changing.
Public reading of Declaration
Carroll announced that a public reading of the Declaration of Independence will begin at 11 a.m. Friday – Independence Day – outside City Hall.
Donchez and DiLuzio will be among the officials reading the declaration in the hour-long program.