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Latinos found jobs and cheap housing in a Pennsylvania city but political power has proven elusive

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Latinos found jobs and cheap housing in a Pennsylvania city but political power has proven elusive
News

News

Latinos found jobs and cheap housing in a Pennsylvania city but political power has proven elusive

2024-05-17 13:17 Last Updated At:13:41

HAZLETON, Pa. (AP) — Latinos seeking jobs and affordable housing have transformed Hazleton, Pennsylvania, in recent decades, but a federal lawsuit argues the way representatives are elected to their local school board is unfairly shutting them out of power.

Nearly two-thirds of students in the Hazleton Area School District are Hispanic, but no Hispanic person has ever been elected to its school board, prompting the court challenge claiming non-Hispanic white voters have employed the district's “at-large” election system to keep things that way.

Two mothers of children enrolled in the anthracite coal region district sued in February, asking for changes to a system they argue dilutes their voting strength and violates the federal Voting Rights Act and the constitutional right to equal protection of the law.

The district's 78,000 residents are about 55% white, 40% Hispanic and 5% Black, Asian or multi-racial, according to the lawsuit, with Hispanics concentrated around Hazleton. Hazleton is among several smaller cities in eastern Pennsylvania where Latino populations have grown large enough to have significant impacts on elections, including this year's hotly contested races for president and U.S. Senate.

The Hazleton board has shown “a significant lack of responsiveness” to the needs of the district’s Hispanic residents, the plaintiffs argued in the lawsuit.

“This includes, but is not limited to, disregard for serious concerns relating to disparate student discipline, student registration procedures founded on unfair stereotypes, inadequate school staffing, lack of qualified translators and lack of effective communication with parents,” according to the lawsuit.

The district requires three separate proofs of address to establish residency from those seeking to be registered for school. A bilingual sign to that effect is posted at the entrance to the administration building, with “must have three” underlined and “no exceptions!” added in handwriting.

Latino leaders say such proofs can be a challenge to produce for those who are new to the country and may lack stable living arrangements. Some say school translators are overworked and understaffed. And there is a feeling that students without strong English skills can be subject to harsher disciplinary treatment.

“We are in an area that is very conservative,” said Vianney Castro, a native of the Dominican Republican and a Democrat who lost November's mayoral election in Hazleton by about 25 percentage points. “They have refused to change. And everything that is happening around us is change.”

Tony Bonomo, president of the Hazleton Area School Board, said electing voters by region may be more fair, but he and the other incumbent board members are not likely to initiate such a change.

“I do think we’re probably close to having that happen,” said Bonomo, a seven-term Democrat. “You almost have to. When you you have a district that is 60% Latino or whatever, something has to happen.”

In seeking dismissal of the case last month, the school district's lawyer argued the two plaintiffs are not entitled to sue under the Voting Rights Act and that voters are divided more by partisan political affiliation than by race and ethnicity.

“Plaintiffs fail to allege with any credible specificity that the claimed Hispanic group of voters is politically cohesive or that the White majority votes sufficiently as a bloc to enable it usually to defeat the minority’s preferred candidate — both assumptions flatly refuted by the reality of the partisan demographics of Hazleton,” the board’s lawyer wrote.

The nine members of the all-white school board are elected in the district as a whole, an at-large election system the board adopted in 1989 amid policy disputes over spending. Previously, board members were elected from smaller regions within the district.

The Pennsylvania State Education Association says 310 of the state’s 500 school boards, like Hazleton Area, have boards elected entirely at-large, 175 elected from regions within the overall district and 15 using a hybrid system.

The Hazleton Area School Board filled vacancies with non-Hispanics twice in recent years, the Hazleton Standard-Speaker reported in February.

The Bethlehem Area School District settled a similar federal lawsuit in 2008 prompted by a decision to sidestep two Hispanic candidates and appoint a white man to fill a vacancy. Under that settlement, Bethlehem, about 50 miles (80 kilometers) from Hazleton, created three geographic seats but continues to elect the other six members at-large.

The influx of new residents has long been a topic of conflict in Hazleton. The City Council approved the Illegal Immigration Relief Act in July 2006, seeking to deny business permits to companies that employ people who are living in the country illegally, fine landlords who rent to them and require tenants to register and pay for a rental permit. A federal judge struck down the ordinance.

The state's booming Latino population is experiencing growing pains as it works to translate raw numbers in political power, said state Rep. Manny Guzman, a Democrat from Reading and vice chair of the Pennsylvania Legislative Latino Caucus.

“We need to do a better job of turning out our voters and building a bench within these respective areas,” Guzman said.

The U.S. Justice Department earlier this month filed a document supporting the ability of private plaintiffs, such as the two women who are suing the Hazleton district, to bring such challenges under the 1965 Voting Rights Act.

Cashier Rosa Dilone serves customers at Mi Tierra Supermarket in Hazleton, Pa., on Thursday, May 16, 2024. About two-thirds of district students are Latino, and a federal lawsuit argues that the way representatives are elected to the Hazleton Area School Board is unfairly shutting Latino voters out of power. (AP Photo/Mark Scolforo)

Cashier Rosa Dilone serves customers at Mi Tierra Supermarket in Hazleton, Pa., on Thursday, May 16, 2024. About two-thirds of district students are Latino, and a federal lawsuit argues that the way representatives are elected to the Hazleton Area School Board is unfairly shutting Latino voters out of power. (AP Photo/Mark Scolforo)

A bilingual sign outside the administration offices of the Hazleton Area School District in Hazleton, Pa., on Thursday, May 16, 2024. About two-thirds of district students are Latino, and a federal lawsuit argues that the way representatives are elected to the Hazleton Area School Board is unfairly shutting Latino voters out of power. (AP Photo/Mark Scolforo)

A bilingual sign outside the administration offices of the Hazleton Area School District in Hazleton, Pa., on Thursday, May 16, 2024. About two-thirds of district students are Latino, and a federal lawsuit argues that the way representatives are elected to the Hazleton Area School Board is unfairly shutting Latino voters out of power. (AP Photo/Mark Scolforo)

Business owner Vianney Castro poses with a sign from the Hazleton mayoral race he lost last year at his tire store in Hazleton, Pa., on Thursday, May 16, 2024. About two-thirds of district students are Latino, and a federal lawsuit argues that the way representatives are elected to the Hazleton Area School Board is unfairly shutting Latino voters out of power. (AP Photo/Mark Scolforo)

Business owner Vianney Castro poses with a sign from the Hazleton mayoral race he lost last year at his tire store in Hazleton, Pa., on Thursday, May 16, 2024. About two-thirds of district students are Latino, and a federal lawsuit argues that the way representatives are elected to the Hazleton Area School Board is unfairly shutting Latino voters out of power. (AP Photo/Mark Scolforo)

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England coach Southgate targeted after 0-0 draw with Slovenia at Euro 2024

2024-06-26 06:46 Last Updated At:06:51

COLOGNE, Germany (AP) — Top of the group, unbeaten and on the favorable side of the draw for the knockout phase of Euro 2024. It’s a case of job done for England.

Try telling that to the fans who jeered loudly and threw beer cups as the final whistle blew on a 0-0 draw with Slovenia at Cologne Stadium on Tuesday.

Criticism of England's performances in Germany has been fierce.

“I’ve not seen any team qualify and receive similar,” manager Gareth Southgate said.

He believes he and his England team could be paying the price for its success under his leadership. And safe passage through to the round of 16 maintains his personal record of advancing from the group stage of every major tournament he's taken charge of, dating back to the World Cup in 2018.

“I think probably expectation (is different). We’ve made England over the last six or seven years fun again. I think it has been enjoyable for the players,” Southgate said. “We’ve got to be very, very careful that it stays that way.”

England hasn't been fun to watch at these Euros with a 1-0 win against Serbia its only victory in Group C. That was followed by a 1-1 draw with Denmark and the 0-0 with Slovenia.

Its performance against Denmark was so uninspired that former captain and now BBC presenter Gary Lineker used an expletive to describe it. And Southgate's team will likely need a sharp upturn in form if it is to live up to its pre-tournament billing as one of the favorites to be crowned European champion.

Still, it can look forward to the knock out phase with a certain degree of optimism having ended up on the opposite side of the draw to Spain, France, Germany and Portugal after advancing as group winner.

“That was the aim before the start of the tournament. Come top of the group and control our destiny,” captain Harry Kane said. “I thought we played a lot better than the other two games. We just couldn’t find that final finish.”

The result also saw Slovenia reach the round of 16 for the first time and Croatia was eliminated.

“We are such a small country, with such a big heart and mental strength. That’s why I'm very proud of my team,” coach Matjaz Kek said. “This is only the beginning for a new and beautiful era for Slovenian football.”

While it was a proud night for Slovenians, it was another performance that highlighted England's problems.

In a game of few chances, substitute Cole Palmer could have sealed the win in stoppage time, but his shot was saved by Slovenia goalkeeper Jan Oblak.

Again England looked short of ideas and could have gone behind early on when Benjamin Sesko had a free header from inside the box.

Bukayo Saka had a first-half goal ruled out for offside and other than Palmer's late chance, England rarely looked like finding a winner.

“You can’t go into every game with such pressure and score four goals. Football doesn’t work like that," Southgate said. "It is important to win the group to control your own destiny.”

A masked Kylian Mbappé scored his first goal of the Euros, but France drew 1-1 with Poland to finish runner-up in Group D behind Austria, which beat the Netherlands 3-2.

Mbappé wore a protective mask after breaking his nose in France’s opening game against Austria and scored from the penalty spot. But Robert Lewandowski’s twice-taken spot kick gave already eliminated Poland its first point of the tournament.

James Robson is at https://twitter.com/jamesalanrobson

AP Euro 2024: https://apnews.com/hub/euro-2024

England's Bukayo Saka reacts after his goal was disallowed during a Group C match between England and Slovenia at the Euro 2024 soccer tournament in Cologne, Germany, Tuesday, June 25, 2024. (AP Photo/Martin Meissner)

England's Bukayo Saka reacts after his goal was disallowed during a Group C match between England and Slovenia at the Euro 2024 soccer tournament in Cologne, Germany, Tuesday, June 25, 2024. (AP Photo/Martin Meissner)

England's Harry Kane challenges for the ball with Slovenia's Jaka Bijol during a Group C match between the England and Slovenia at the Euro 2024 soccer tournament in Cologne, Germany, Tuesday, June 25, 2024. (AP Photo/Andreea Alexandru)

England's Harry Kane challenges for the ball with Slovenia's Jaka Bijol during a Group C match between the England and Slovenia at the Euro 2024 soccer tournament in Cologne, Germany, Tuesday, June 25, 2024. (AP Photo/Andreea Alexandru)

England team members congratulate each other after a Group C match between the England and Slovenia at the Euro 2024 soccer tournament in Cologne, Germany, Tuesday, June 25, 2024. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)

England team members congratulate each other after a Group C match between the England and Slovenia at the Euro 2024 soccer tournament in Cologne, Germany, Tuesday, June 25, 2024. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)

England's coach Gareth Southgate reacts at the end of a Group C match against Slovenia at the Euro 2024 soccer tournament in Cologne, Germany, Tuesday, June 25, 2024. The match ended in a 0-0 draw. (AP Photo/Martin Meissner)

England's coach Gareth Southgate reacts at the end of a Group C match against Slovenia at the Euro 2024 soccer tournament in Cologne, Germany, Tuesday, June 25, 2024. The match ended in a 0-0 draw. (AP Photo/Martin Meissner)

Slovenia's players celebrate at the end of a Group C match between the England and Slovenia at the Euro 2024 soccer tournament in Cologne, Germany, Tuesday, June 25, 2024. (AP Photo/Andreea Alexandru)

Slovenia's players celebrate at the end of a Group C match between the England and Slovenia at the Euro 2024 soccer tournament in Cologne, Germany, Tuesday, June 25, 2024. (AP Photo/Andreea Alexandru)

Slovenia's players celebrate at the end of a Group C match between the England and Slovenia at the Euro 2024 soccer tournament in Cologne, Germany, Tuesday, June 25, 2024. (AP Photo/Andreea Alexandru)

Slovenia's players celebrate at the end of a Group C match between the England and Slovenia at the Euro 2024 soccer tournament in Cologne, Germany, Tuesday, June 25, 2024. (AP Photo/Andreea Alexandru)

England's Jude Bellingham reacts at the end of a Group C match against Slovenia at the Euro 2024 soccer tournament in Cologne, Germany, Tuesday, June 25, 2024. The match ended in a 0-0 draw. (AP Photo/Martin Meissner)

England's Jude Bellingham reacts at the end of a Group C match against Slovenia at the Euro 2024 soccer tournament in Cologne, Germany, Tuesday, June 25, 2024. The match ended in a 0-0 draw. (AP Photo/Martin Meissner)

Slovenia's Andraz Sporar, right, is fouled by England's Marc Guehi during a Group C match at the Euro 2024 soccer tournament in Cologne, Germany, Tuesday, June 25, 2024. (AP Photo/Martin Meissner)

Slovenia's Andraz Sporar, right, is fouled by England's Marc Guehi during a Group C match at the Euro 2024 soccer tournament in Cologne, Germany, Tuesday, June 25, 2024. (AP Photo/Martin Meissner)

England's Jude Bellingham looks on during a Group C match between the England and Slovenia at the Euro 2024 soccer tournament in Cologne, Germany, Tuesday, June 25, 2024. (AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis)

England's Jude Bellingham looks on during a Group C match between the England and Slovenia at the Euro 2024 soccer tournament in Cologne, Germany, Tuesday, June 25, 2024. (AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis)

England's Harry Kane, left, runs with the ball ahead Slovenia's Benjamin Sesko during a Group C match between the England and Slovenia at the Euro 2024 soccer tournament in Cologne, Germany, Tuesday, June 25, 2024. (AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis)

England's Harry Kane, left, runs with the ball ahead Slovenia's Benjamin Sesko during a Group C match between the England and Slovenia at the Euro 2024 soccer tournament in Cologne, Germany, Tuesday, June 25, 2024. (AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis)

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