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Public Statements

Restoring the Rule of Law and Reestablishing the Pillars of American Exceptionalism

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. BARLETTA. Thank you, Congressman King.

Recently, there has been a lot of talk in Washington about illegal immigration. As the mayor of Hazleton, Pennsylvania, after it was estimated that 10 percent of our entire population was there illegally, I created the first law of its kind in the country. Now, I don't need to be briefed about illegal immigration--I have lived it. Because Washington has failed to protect our borders, cities like mine have been overcome. I had to deal with it myself because of Washington's failure.

Our immigration laws were created for two reasons: one, to protect the American people and our national security; and two, to protect American workers.

Now, in 1986, Ronald Reagan had promised the American people that if we'd give amnesty to 1.5 million illegal aliens that we would secure our borders and that this would never happen again. After the declaration of amnesty, that 1.5 million actually doubled to over 3 million. Now, a quarter of a century later, over 11 million people are in our country illegally, and our borders are still not secured.

This isn't just about the southern border. There is a lot of focus about, if we secure the southern border, our borders are secure. Forty percent of the people who are in the country illegally did not cross a border--they didn't cross the southern border; they didn't come across Canada. Forty percent of the people who are in the country illegally came on visas and overstayed their visas. In fact, one of the men who was granted amnesty in 1986 was involved in the 1993 attack on the World Trade Center. Now, my city is 2,000 miles away from the nearest southern border, and I have an illegal immigration problem. Any State that has an international airport is a border State.

There are 22 million Americans who are out of work. We should not be encouraging millions more to come here illegally when so many Americans cannot find jobs. Medicare and Social Security are going broke, and yet the Heritage Foundation did a study that said that if we give a pathway to citizenship to the 11 million or more who are here, it will cost over $2.6 trillion over the next 20 years. We should not even be talking about offering amnesty. There should be no bill that talks about a pathway to citizenship. We should be securing our borders first.

This is something that we should all be able to agree upon, Democrats and Republicans, the Senate and the House, if we are sincere, if we're not trying to fool the American people a second time. We promised them that we would secure our borders before we give amnesty. Offering a pathway to citizenship will make matters worse. It will encourage millions more to come here illegally.

You know, you don't replace your carpet at home when you still have a hole in the roof.

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Mr. BARLETTA. Sure. When I was mayor of Hazleton, over 40 percent of the entire population of Hazleton was Hispanic, and I won with over 90 percent of the vote. And I don't know of anyone at the time who took a harder stance against illegal immigration than I had at that time. So this talk that you cannot stand up for the rule of law, that you cannot stand up against illegal immigration and still welcome new immigrants, new American citizens, is totally false.

Mr. KING of Iowa. Reclaiming my time, just doing a quick calculation off of that, 40 percent of the population of Hazleton being Hispanic, presuming that represented a percentage of the voting population that was Hispanic, and you carried 90 percent of the vote, which would indicate that somewhere in the area of 75 percent of the Hispanic population voted for Lou Barletta for mayor of Hazleton; would that be close to correct?

Mr. BARLETTA. I believe it would. And again, what I found in my hands-on experience as a mayor in dealing with the problem of illegal immigration, plus a city whose Hispanic population had exploded, for example, to show you how fast our population had grown, in the year 2000, English as a Second Language, the budget for English as a Second Language was $500. Just 5 years later, it was $1.5 million. So as our immigrant population grew, we also realized that the most important issues to those that were there were good opportunities, were good jobs. It wasn't about granting amnesty or a pathway to citizenship. They wanted good jobs and a good education for their children. They came to America for that better life. Offering amnesty wasn't going to make their life any better, and they understood that. They also understand that allowing 20 or 30 million more people to come into this country illegally is not helpful for people who are starting out, who need the jobs that they came here for, or many Americans who can't find work.

Mr. KING of Iowa. I'm curious, since you came to Congress here, Mr. Barletta, and I'm going to presuppose that you have strong personal relationships among the entire spectrum of the community of Hazleton, have any of them in any appreciable number changed their position on the immigration issue since they sent you to Congress? And can you speak on some of your relationships with your constituents today and those who were your constituents when you were mayor?

Mr. BARLETTA. The position has not changed. And, in fact, I believe the fact that I stood up for the rule of law and I speak for the importance of protecting our national security and our American jobs here, it has allowed me to win elections, getting both Democrat and Republican support. I ran in a district that was 2:1 Democrat, and I won by over 10 percent of the vote. I really believe the fact that I was able to stand up when Washington had let us down was really the reason why Democrats, Republicans, immigrants, and non-immigrants supported me.

Mr. KING of Iowa. Reclaiming my time, the individuals that come here to this Congress from various districts, and surely there are many that come from blue collar-type districts--I'm going to presume that's a fair amount of the Democrat constituency that you represent, me being a blue collar kind of a guy and a hands-on fellow--I started out as an earth-moving contractor, actually in the labor part of the construction business--how do you suppose the constituents of other Members of Congress that don't have this same position that you have on the rule of law and immigration and protecting legal immigrants, what are they hearing do you suppose in those similar districts to the one you have?

Mr. BARLETTA. I believe that people all over the country understand what I'm saying, that illegal immigration is crushing our cities. Our population in Hazleton grew by 50 percent, but our tax revenue remained the same. Our population grew by 50 percent, but our tax revenue remained the same. Small cities, small towns like Hazleton, Pennsylvania, are crushed by the burden of illegal immigration.

I was sued for creating the first law of its kind in the country, and I couldn't find politicians to come near me, to be honest with you. It was pretty refreshing because nobody came to Hazleton. And I thought I was standing there alone until I started getting cards and letters and checks from people all over the United States. In fact, I got checks from every State, including Alaska and Hawaii, to help defend our city in that lawsuit. We raised over half a million dollars, most of it in $10 and $20 donations, from people all over America who felt the same way. I am not alone. The American people understand what illegal immigration means. It doesn't mean that we roll up the welcome mat to new immigrants. We ask them to come here through the proper channels, respect the rule of law, and then give them the opportunity that they came to America for.

Mr. KING of Iowa. Reclaiming my time, I remain curious to the wealth of experience that the former mayor and the gentleman from Pennsylvania has provided here, Mr. Speaker. I would ask also, of the illegal drug distribution links that exist in this country and that which I'm going to presume also shows up in Hazleton, illegal drugs and violence, and I will make this statement into the Record, Mr. Speaker, and that is, in my meetings with the Drug Enforcement Agency and a number of others that are involved in enforcing the laws against illegal drugs, they tell me that at least one link in every illegal drug distribution chain in America, at least one link in that chain, is carried out by someone who is unlawfully present in the United States. The cost of those illegal drugs to our society, I don't know has been quantified. That trade itself has been estimated to be something above $40 billion, perhaps something above $60 billion a year, and I would ask the gentleman from Pennsylvania if his experience would reflect that to be true?

Mr. BARLETTA. Well, it is absolutely true. I'll give you an example. We had arrested a young man for selling cocaine on a playground. The man was in the country illegally. It took our detectives 5 hours to determine who he was. He had five Social Security cards. He had five identities. Law enforcement has no idea who they are dealing with; many, many are here under fraudulent documentation. Those who are involved in the criminal element, in the gangs or drug trade, I don't believe will be coming forward no matter what laws we pass here. And we can pass all the laws in the world; if we don't enforce the laws of this country and if we don't allow States and local law enforcement to work in harmony with the Federal Government, we will never stop the problem of illegal immigration. But what we shouldn't do is make the same mistake we made in 1986 and give a green light to people all over the world to come here illegally while our borders are still open.

If you were a family waiting to come to the United States because you wanted to obey the law, but you hear a declaration like we're hearing here in Washington, offering a pathway to citizenship and protection while you're here, why would you wait? Why would you wait with your family?

It would be a green light for people to come. That's why the problem will become worse.

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Mr. BARLETTA. Well I did, actually. The final straw for me that made me realize that I needed to do something to protect the people in my town actually happened on May 10, 2006. It was a day that I'll never forget.

Earlier in the day we had arrested a 14-year-old for shooting a gun into a crowded playground. The 14-year-old was in the country illegally. And it was interesting: he had his lawyer on speed dial on his cell phone, which I thought I don't know how many 14-year-olds carry their lawyer on a speed dial.

I remember going home that day and telling my wife that I had--I didn't know what to do anymore. We were losing control of the city. We didn't have the resources to deal with the problem.

That same night I got a call from the chief of police, 1 o'clock in the morning, a 29-year-old city man, father of three children, was shot in the head. He was shot by one of the gang members in the city.

That one homicide, it took our police department 36 hours to bring the people forward that committed that crime. We spent half of our yearly budget in overtime in the police department on that one murder.

And enough was enough. If the Federal Government wasn't going to do anything, then I had to. I took an oath, and I had an obligation to do so. And that's what began my crusade.

I was sued, by the way. I was sued for creating the law. In fact, the plaintiffs that sued the city of Hazelton, many of the plaintiffs were admitted illegal aliens who sued the city. They had their identities kept confidential. They had asked if their identities could be kept confidential, which they were. We were not allowed to ask their names.

They then asked if they could be excused from showing up at the trial because they were in the country illegally and didn't want to go to a Federal courthouse. It was granted.

I never saw our accusers. I took the stand for 2 days. I testified for 2 days, but never saw the people that sued the city of Hazelton. I felt that illegal aliens were given more rights than a United States citizen would be given. You cannot sue your city and remain anonymous.

I vowed to appeal this and fight this to the Supreme Court, which we did.

So what brings me here is a life of experience as a mayor who tries to balance a budget, provide a good quality of life for the people that live there, and realize what happens when illegal immigration, not at the border, not just at the border, not just in Texas. I'm 2,000 miles away from that southern border.

We have good reason to enforce our immigration laws, and we should not be encouraging people to come to this country illegally by granting amnesty. We did it in 1986, and we're talking about this again.

Why obey our immigration laws if we have an administration that won't enforce the laws and a Congress that wants to give amnesty every time the problem comes up again?

We need to enforce our laws. We need to make E-verify mandatory. Protect American jobs. We need to make sure we're protecting our national security. There are people around the world that want to harm us.

And we need to give the immigrants that come here the opportunity that they waited for, those immigrants that stood and waited because they wanted to obey America's laws and they are here, and we are stealing that opportunity away from them. Yet we're telling them we're doing this for the immigrants that are here.

They're smarter than that. And that's why immigration is not the most important issue to the people that are here. They want that education; let's give it to them.

All the programs that the Heritage Foundation talks about that will be impacted by this pathway to citizenship are programs that the most needy need to live. Why are we going to hurt people that need these programs?

I feel very strongly about this issue. I feel very strongly, and that's why I'm here to speak up.

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