Anti-Immigrant Ordinances Bad for Business in Small Towns

Citing parking problems and a supposed strain on public services, the Riverside, New Jersey township committee unanimously passed a Hazleton-style anti-immigrant ordinance in July to punish those who hire or rent housing to undocumented immigrants. Now the struggling business district of the town of 8,000, near Camden, is seeing a “devastating impact” from the law, reports the Courier-Post:

Franco Ordonez, a native of Ecuador who runs the King Chicken restaurant on Scott Street, says five Latino-owned businesses have closed in recent weeks as the township has stepped up its efforts to crack down on illegal immigrants.

Ordonez said he expects two or three more to close within a month. “People are scared of what’s being done,” he said. “Almost the entire population is gone.”

Meanwhile older, more traditional businesses have also suffered.

Dave Ercolani, owner of Foster’s Hardware, figures his business is down by one-third. “I’m going to be out of here in three months,” said Ercolani, 64, who hastened to add that he planned to retire “long before this happened.”

According to a Latino business group, the Riverside Coalition of Business Persons and Landlords, “sales at about 25 commercial establishments have fallen 50 percent” due to the ordinance.

In Hazleton, Pennsylvania itself — where just one year ago the mayor cited immigrants as having revitalized the city’s economy — one business area has gone from bustling to boarded-up in just three weeks.

Nevertheless, on Wednesday Riverside’s council voted to bolster its ordinance. More anti-immigrant ordinances are being introduced in Arcadia, Wisconsin; Altoona, Pennsylvania; and Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. In Forty Fort, Pennsylvania – where a “pre-emptive” ordinance ultimately failed to pass last week – somebody is anonymously putting up fliers warning of the supposed threat from immigrants and issuing a “wake-up call to Americans to become active in defense of our nation’s rule of law.”

Riverside, NJ

Anti-immigrant protestors in Riverside, New Jersey. The sign says “Drive your vans back across the Rio Grande.” (Courier-Post)