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Delco Councilor Decries ‘Angry Mob’ at Council Meeting Opposed to Housing for Illegal Immigrants

Delaware County officials told an overflow crowd of concerned citizens at a recent council meeting that, despite the rumors, they have no plans to turn the Don Guanella property in Marple Township into migrant housing.

Regardless, one Delaware County Democrat condemned their concerns as “hate speech” and dismissed the county residents who showed up as an “angry mob.”

The property, renamed Delco Woods, was acquired by the county from the Catholic Church with the understanding that it would be used for open space. However, the county has at least considered using a part of the property for a mental health facility.

And there has been widespread speculation that the nation’s open border crisis could result in local housing for some of the estimated 10 million migrants — illegal, paroled, or seeking asylum — who’ve crossed the southern border since President Joe Biden took office.

“This rumor, as well as the one about the future of Delaware County Memorial Hospital and Springfield Hospital, has absolutely no truth to it. The County is not planning to convert the Don Guanella property into a facility to house immigrants,” said county spokeswoman Adrienne Marofsky.

After the possible mental health facility proposal went public, Marple Township promptly voted to zone the entire 213 acres for open space.

Council Chair Monica Taylor, Ph.D. acknowledged Wednesday the site had been “an option” for a mental health center, but other options are also under consideration. But most of the local residents at the council meeting were worried about the possibility of housing for illegal immigrants.

Drexel Hill resident Joy Schwartz, a Republican who ran for county council last year, said, “This county has to take a different course and say this is enough. We need to stop the flow of so many people into our county. It’s destroying our schools. It’s costing us a fortune in healthcare. And it has to stop.”

Kathy, who did not disclose her last name, said she is concerned that the city, county and state are sanctuaries for illegal immigrants and that Delaware County has not complied with U.S. Customs Enforcement detainers in the past.

“We have illegals rob Walmart, and it’s not prosecuted, and let go. Delco citizens rob Walmart. They’re prosecuted and sent to a crappy, poorly-run prison that the county runs. That really makes sense, doesn’t it? And who is going to pay to have law enforcement in these townships with the illegals? Oh. We’ll just have to raise everybody’s taxes in Delco to cover it. We, the residents in Delaware County, have to pay for the poor decisions of our county council. I guess you all forgot. You work for us.”

Nick D’Ambrosio, 16, a sophomore at Marple Newtown High School and president of Marple Civic Youth, said he took part in the planning for Don Guanella and asked the council to keep plans for a section for teens with a pavilion and study area.

Media Republican Party Chair Michael Straw worries about the council’s spending.

“I am deeply concerned with the direction Delco Council is taking with Don Guanella. Previously, they told us this land would be preserved as open space. Now we are seeing county council change course and try to put a mental health facility on this property, which will undoubtedly have a larger operating budget compared to leaving the property as open space, making it a park.”

“As taxpayers, we want our funds to be spent wisely and efficiently,” Straw added. “Creating new facilities, departments and programs with short-term funding mechanisms seems irresponsible and troubles me deeply,” noting that the council raised taxes by five percent last year.

Charles Alexander, also from Marple Township asked the council to declare that Delaware County is not a sanctuary county, that it can no longer be a staging point for non-governmental organizations that settle immigrants, and that they won’t open housing for illegal immigrants in the county.

“I’ll leave you with a quote from the greatest police chief in Delco history [Mike Chitwood]: ‘Not in my town, scumbags.’  Enough is enough. Leave Don Guanella alone.”

Later that evening, when Delaware County Councilwoman Elaine Paul Schaefer arrived at a hearing on antisemitism, she blamed her tardiness on crowd at the  council meeting, referring to them as “an angry mob.”

“I’m very sad to say I’m late tonight because I was at a council meeting at which there was an angry mob of 150 people,” the Radnor resident said. “And the hate speech we’re hearing now, which is probably the reason, which is directed at immigrants. It is really just characterizing our incredibly vibrant, wonderful immigrant community as just not human. It’s really hard to hear.”


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ADL Panel In Radnor Addresses Rise of Antisemitism in Pennsylvania

“On Oct. 8, our interfaith partners showed up,” said Rabbi Peter Rigler of Temple Sholom in Broomall. “They asked how we were. And to be candid, I haven’t heard from most of them since.”

“A lot of the dialogue has become, ‘We love you, but this is hard now. That’s where it is. And I would say the same of a lot of our nonprofit partners in the community, people that we have done work with have said, ‘Now is not a great time for us.’ So, in general, I would say those interfaith relationships have changed dramatically.”

Rigler spoke to about 100 concerned Jews and other residents who came to the first Antidefamation League Main Line Community Action Group (MLCAG) meeting at the Willows in Radnor. The ADL assembled panels of religious leaders, law enforcement, educators and government officials to address the spike in antisemitic incidents in 2023, many occurring in the wake of the Oct. 7 Hamas attack on Israel.

Pennsylvania ranked sixth in the U.S. for the most antisemitic episodes last year, including 51 bomb threats. There were 8,873 reports of assault, harassment, and vandalism around the country, the most in four decades. Since Oct. 7, there have been 5,204 antisemitic incidents in the U.S.

(From left) T/E Superintendent Richard Gusick, Radnor Superintendent Kenneth Batchelor and Rabbi Peter Rigler.

“We are at a moment in time where antisemitism has skyrocketed,” said Abbey Krain, ADL senior associate regional director. “How did we get here? And what can we do about it?”

“As of this moment, campuses and our Jewish students and faculty there continue to bear the brunt of antisemitic sentiment,” she said. ADL has put together a report card ranking various universities and colleges.

ADL Philadelphia Regional Director Andrew Goretsky said the idea for MLCAG came after co-chair Lisa Schreiber organized a “No Hate” rally of 300 people when swastikas appeared in Tredyffrin.

Rigler said that even as their partners in the faith community abandoned them, law enforcement has stepped up to fill the void, with extra patrols to ensure that the synagogue is safe for congregants to attend services.

Asked about hate crimes and hate incidents, Delaware County District Attorney Jack Stollsteimer said Pennsylvania’s statute covering hate crimes is called “ethnic intimidation” and requires a “predicate crime” like assault, arson, or harassment first before it can be charged. A separate institutional vandalism law protects schools and houses of worship.

Radnor Police Superintendent Chris Flanagan said bomb threats, which are often made through disguised IP addresses, are a concern. They’ve asked the FBI and the district attorney’s office to help investigate.

“We take it very seriously,” said Flanagan. They also work with other departments and share information. “It is a partnership on all of these incidents.”

(From left) Delaware County DA Jack Stollsteimer, Radnor Police Superintendent Chris Flanagan, Narberth Police Chief John String and Tredyffrin Police Superintendent Michael Beaty.

“We partner and communicate,” agreed Tredyffrin Police Superintendent Michael Beaty. He asked people to “work with us, to be involved.” And also he suggested they get to know their local police officers. “We need your help,” he said.

Narberth Police Chief John String said in his borough, Nana’s Kitchen was vandalized. They rely on community members to help identify vandals. In nearby Wynnewood, Temple Beth Hillel/Beth El was vandalized last month.

Flanagan added, “If you have an incident, with all the hurt that goes along with it, please preserve the evidence. If it’s washed off, we lose DNA, fingerprints. As hard as it is to see it, please wait for the police to get there.”

A few weeks after she was sworn in in 2020, “I had my first death threat. That was from being Jewish,” said Chester County Commissioner Marian Moskowitz.

“I grew up with it where I lived, in Kensington,” she said. “Various times in my life—but the heaviness that sits on all of us at the moment is the most difficult thing I’ve ever seen.”

“I think we need to communicate more with our young people so they understand what it is Jewish people have been going through because they have no clue,” said Moskowitz. “People don’t know how to talk about this and if we don’t allow them to talk about it, we being the Jewish community, there’s never going to be any understanding.”

State Rep. Lisa Borowski (D-Newtown Square) said she’s hearing from people who are “scared and concerned for their loved ones.” There is legislation that’s passed the House and is waiting in the Senate to increase penalties for hate crimes. Other legislation addresses antisemitism and teaching about the Holocaust. Randi Boyette, ADL director of education, said the ADL is advocating for legislation to mandate that students learn about the Holocaust.

During the question-and-answer period, some parents said they were concerned their kids’ classmates were not learning about the Holocaust in school. Both Tredyffrin/Easttown Superintendent Richard Gusick and Radnor Superintendent Kenneth Batchelor said their districts have Holocaust education as part of the curriculum.

Delaware County Council Member Elaine Schaefer said the council had passed a resolution after “some highly disturbing incidents.”

“A resolution is not law. It’s just a piece of paper. As leaders of this community of 500,000 people, it is important to be clear: It is wrong, and we should reject it at all levels.”

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