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Source: Reuters
Date: November 16, 2006
Byline: Reuters

US town bars foreign flags in swipe at immigrants

PHOENIX (Reuters) — A Nevada town passed a law this week making it illegal to fly a foreign nation's flag by itself, the latest swipe by a U.S. community at illegal immigrants.

The town council of Pahrump, which lies in the Mojave Desert west of Las Vegas, voted 3-2 on Tuesday to make flying any foreign flag above the U.S. flag or alone an offense punishable by a $50 fine and 30 hours' community service.

The meeting also pushed through measures to deny services to illegal immigrants and make English the official language in Pahrump, a commuter town of 40,000 residents some 60 miles (97 km) west of Las Vegas.

Supporters said they passed the measure to hit back at Hispanic demonstrators who carried Mexican flags when they marched in U.S. cities earlier this year to press for rights for 10 million to 12 million illegal immigrants living in the shadows.

"All of the illegal alien protesters are waving Mexican flags, and we just got tired of it," town board clerk Paul Willis told Reuters in a telephone interview.

"This is the United States, and the Stars and Stripes should fly supreme," he added.

Hispanic groups slammed the flag ordinance as a blow to first-amendment rights to free speech but thought it unlikely that the community would enforce it.

"It is clearly unconstitutional, but given that Pahrump that is such a small town, I don't think they are going to be hiring any flag police any time soon." said John Trasvina, the president and general counsel of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund.

In passing the bylaw, the town joined several other communities from California to Pennsylvania that have passed laws curbing illegal immigrants in recent months.

Among them are Escondido, in southern California, and Hazleton in Pennsylvania, where councilors barred landlords from renting to undocumented aliens and denied them access to services.

In Texas, where a third of the citizens are Hispanic, the Dallas suburb of Farmers Branch this week enacted laws fining landlords who rent to illegal immigrants and making English the official language.

Texas lawmakers preparing for the next legislative session in January filed bills this week to block state assistance to illegal immigrants and their children and to tax money transfers to Mexico, according to the bills.

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