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CNN "Newsroom" Transcript: Immigration

Interview

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KING: Vivid picture showing you right there the demographics of the country are changing, as Miguel Marquez so smartly notes. Miguel, thank those students and thank you for their input on the conversation today.

Now let's come back to the conversation in Washington. We heard from a bipartisan group of senators yesterday. If you do the math, it seems -- this could get bogged down. But it seems the Senate has at least a general consensus on how to move forward. But what happens when the debate shifts to the Republican House?

Congressman Lou Barletta of Pennsylvania joins us now on the phone.

Sir, you're a critic of the president's proposals. I want to come at this, play devil's advocate for a minute. The president says there will be tougher border security. The president says there will be tougher enforcement, including electronic efforts like E-Verify. He says there will be a path to citizenship, but it will be earned citizenship.

Answer the critic who says the president is trying to address conservative concerns, that essentially he's trying to say yes to you, but you won't accept it.

REP. LOUIS BARLETTA (R), PENNSYLVANIA: Well, we're talking about replacing the carpet, John, while we still have a hole in the roof.

This will only -- these types of proposals will only make the problem worse. Proposing a pathway to citizenship while our borders are not secured, while people can come on visas and then disappear into our system, will only encourage millions, millions of people around the world to come here illegally, making the matter worse.

(CROSSTALK)

KING: Forgive me for interrupting, sir, but both the president -- and let me bring in a conservative in the context -- Senator Marco Rubio on the Senate side said yesterday he won't let that happen. He said this will be phased in, that you will have to certify -- and they will have to agree on how to certify -- but you would have to certify that the border was secure and that you would have to have a system that prevented what you just talked about, people coming in legally, but then overstaying their welcome.

Do you just simply believe it can't be done?

BARLETTA: Well, I believe we haven't done it yet.

This is five years that the president talked about some type of immigration reform and now we're just talking about it again. The problem has been going on for over a decade. And we still know that we can't track people who enter the country illegally and exit the country.

This is also, John, going to make it harder for the legal immigrants. I know the window dressing here claims that we want to help immigrants, but we're actually going to make it harder for the legal immigrants that are here who can't find a job today, and then, thirdly, right now when we are trying to balance a budget in Washington, the cost of a pathway to citizenship for 10 to 12 million illegal aliens will be about $2.7 trillion when you consider Medicare, Social Security, unemployment compensation, food stamps and other welfare programs.

So, you know, I think we're rushing. I think this is a political fix more than it is a practical policy decision that we're going to secure the borders, we're going to make sure we track people, and we're going to make sure we can afford what this is going to cost.

KING: Let me ask you a political question. Obviously, you're in the Republican House majority. You know what happened in the last election. Not only Mitt Romney got 27 percent of the Latino vote. In House races across the country, Democrats got a huge majority of the Latino vote.

In most of the key Senate races, the Democrats got 50, sometimes 60, sometimes 70 percent or more of Latino vote. You're from a largely white district, sir. Maybe this doesn't impact you as much, but when you're in the House Republican Conference, how much of the conversation about the need to do something changed now as opposed to if we had this conversation a month before the election?

BARLETTA: Well, first, we need to look at -- the city I was mayor of before I went to Congress is 40 percent Latino. So I know very well, you know, the problems that come along with illegal immigration and how it hurts the legal immigrants who came here for an opportunity.

And we have now allowed an underground work force to come in and compete for their jobs. I know very well what type of effects illegal immigration has on municipal government. As a political issue, I believe that's really why we're rushing, rather than doing this in the proper sequence of making sure that our borders are secure and that the national security issue of who is in this country, and to make sure we're protecting the American people and American jobs.

But I believe there is more politics behind these types of proposals than there is good policy. And that is, I believe, there is a rush to try to get the Latino vote and that's not the reason that we should be dealing with this type of immigration reform until all of our questions are answered.

KING: Congressman Lou Barletta, Republican of Pennsylvania, sir, I appreciate your perspective today. We will stay in touch as the debate continues in both houses and chambers of Congress. Sir, thank you very much.


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