Residents in California, Pennsylvania, a small borough of the Pittsburgh metropolitan area, have said they are outraged after the federal government moved 40 Romanian "gypsies" into the town of 7,000 as part of the government’s Alternative to Detention program.
On Thursday, more than 150 residents attended a community meeting about the immigrants, who residents say have failed to assimilate to American customs and norms. The residents cited trash in yards, disruptions in town markets, children and men defecating in public streets, and immigrants cutting off the heads of chickens in public areas, according to a report by WTAE-TV. None of the immigrants, who are undocumented, have been charged with any other serious criminal offenses.
"We're a very diverse town, we're very open, but they aren't assimilating to our laws," said Pam Duricic, a resident of California, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported. “We are understanding that these are immigrants. But this is not the same scenario as our grandparents. They didn't come here to raise havoc.”
The Romanian immigrants ended up in the California borough as part of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Alternative to Detention program, which allows immigrants to live in U.S. communities instead of being detained while they await a final decision about their immigration status.
The Romanian immigrants have said they came to America to escape persecution. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported that they belong to a group called Roma, minorities in Romania that are distinct from most of the Romanian population. The 40 Romanian immigrants have self-described themselves as “gypsies.”
It’s unclear why they ended up in California borough, rather than in some other neighboring town or in nearby Pittsburgh, but the Post-Gazette reported one of the Romanians said at the town meeting they came to California borough because of its affordability and friendly reputation.
At the town meeting, town officials and the police chief told residents they had received no warning from the federal government about the immigrants’ arrival.
About 600 residents have signed a petition demanding the gypsies change their living habits.
According to the American Civil Liberties Union, the Alternatives to Immigration Detention program was implemented in part to save taxpayer money. About $2 billion is spent every year for immigration detention.
The ACLU also claims the AID program is “more humane” because the immigrants involved in the program would otherwise be detained only to ensure that they show up for their hearings, not because they’ve committed crimes.