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

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. KING of Iowa. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

As always, it's an honor to be recognized to address you here on the floor of the United States House of Representatives.

I want to say to you, Mr. Speaker, that I come to this floor very troubled here this evening. I am troubled at the current inertia that seems to have been created in the minds and in the positions of a number of people who are here in the House and in the Senate, primarily those on my side of the aisle, who seemed to wake up on the morning of November 7 and decided that Mitt Romney would be President-elect if he just hadn't said two words, ``self-deport,'' and if he hadn't said two other words, ``47 percent.'' They had done this analysis, apparently, before there were any kind of exit polls that could have been considered.

They persist in sticking with this opinion that something must be done about immigration in this country and that there needs to be comprehensive immigration reform passed and that, if that doesn't happen, then there's going to be a kind of calamity that might eliminate or badly weaken the bipartisan, two-party system that we have in this country.

I reject those principles or those opinions, Mr. Speaker, because what I know about the facts refutes them completely. There are no facts that uphold such a position. It is true that the people in my party have lost a growing share of the vote of the list of minority coalitions that there are in the country. It's also true that the other party has demagogued this issue mercilessly, and the effect of their tens of millions of dollars has shown in the polls. My colleagues on my side of the aisle don't seem to recognize that. Perhaps they haven't thought this through, and I hope they do, Mr. Speaker. But the most essential pillar of American exceptionalism that is affected by this debate over immigration is the rule of law.

It appears to me that there are a number of people on my side of the aisle who say--even though they recognize that the comprehensive immigration reform agenda, which has been around since the George W. Bush administration and perhaps before--they believe that somehow, even though it's fifth or sixth on the list of issues that would be important and relevant to minorities that look at the path to citizenship and at a path to staying in the United States and working and raising their families and being productive here, that jobs and the economy are more important. A whole list of things are more important, but it's fifth or sixth on that priority list. Those who advocate for this Gang of Eight's version, which seems to be emerging from the Senate in comprehensive immigration reform, seem to think that we should do something, that we should pass some type of amnesty because that's what's required to ``start the conversation.''

I took an oath to uphold this Constitution. This Constitution is the supreme law of the land, and the rule of law is an essential pillar of American exceptionalism; and if there are people in this Congress, House or Senate, who are prepared to sacrifice the rule of law in order to start a conversation, that's enough to get me to come here to the floor tonight, Mr. Speaker, to start the conversation about restoring the rule of law and reestablishing the pillars of American exceptionalism and making sure that this great Nation that we are can go on to our destiny beyond the shining city on the hill to a place that actually does realize American destiny with all of the pillars of American exceptionalism intact, not sacrificing the rule of law for political expediency, which is the bargain that is being negotiated over on the Senate side and behind closed doors here on the House side, although not even publicly admitted to.

So, Mr. Speaker, in the earlier part of this discussion, I would be very pleased to yield to a very strong leader on the rule of law, to one who has led within his own community in Hazleton and who has been a clear and articulate voice on protecting and defending America's rule of law destiny, and that's the gentleman from Pennsylvania (Mr. Barletta).


Mr. KING of Iowa. I thank the gentleman from Pennsylvania for coming to the floor to deliver this presentation, this hands-on presentation from the gentleman, Mr. Barletta. If you would yield to a question, I'm curious as to the percentage of the population of Hazleton that is a minority population, perhaps Hispanic population, and how your election results turned out the last time you ran for mayor of Hazleton?

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.

Mr. KING of Iowa. And reclaiming my time, it was reported to me today here on the floor, a Representative that represents an area very near the southern border said to me that the illegal border crossings are up 20 percent since the dialog on comprehensive immigration reform, that euphemism began.

So the encouragement for people to get into the United States on the chance that this Congress will pass some kind of an act that would ultimately be amnesty is bringing more people into the United States.

But I wanted to circle back and ask another question of the gentleman from Pennsylvania, and that is that there's a GAO study, a General Accountability Office study, of about 2 years ago that went back through our prison system and asked the question, a number of questions about the population of our prison system that are criminal aliens. And that number was at least 28 percent. Some numbers show 30, depending on how you define that.

But there also was a number in there that was stark to me. The people in prisons in the United States, both Federal and State, all together, who have been convicted of homicide, now that prison population, according to that study, was 25,064. And when I think of a number that large, multiples of all of our casualties in Iraq and Afghanistan, that is American population, most of it, that's a number, but it's human. It's very, very personal.

And I would ask the gentleman from Pennsylvania if he would have any personal accounts that might reflect a component of that 25,064.

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.

Mr. KING of Iowa. Reclaiming my time, I very much thank the gentleman from Pennsylvania for coming to the floor and voicing his opinion. And I know that he's also occupied with a very tight schedule, so I appreciate that a great deal.

Mr. Speaker, the attention that I've given Mr. Barletta, I hope that you and America have given Lou Barletta as well. And I hope that he's rewarded, not only by his constituents, but by a policy of protection of the rule of law that can be re-established here in this country.

The idea that we should somehow suspend our good judgment, and we should waive the rule of law, all for some idea of political expediency, is not compatible with the principles of our political party. And sacrificing the rule of law for political expediency seems, to me, to be a foolish idea.

It needs to be precious to be an American citizen. Citizenship should be valuable. And throughout all of the years that people have come into the United States legally--and the distinction between legal and illegal has been conflated by the open-borders crowd, both Republicans and Democrats.

But you'll watch, Mr. Speaker, how they conflate the language. A few years ago they started blending the term ``health care'' and ``health insurance'' till it became one thing, and we got ObamaCare out of that, because people could no longer draw the distinction between health care and health insurance.

And we've also watched during a similar period of time, as the dialog of the distinction between illegal immigrant and immigrant, the distinction--immigrant means someone who came to the United States legally and followed our laws, that saw the image of the Statue of Liberty, was inspired by that image, and found a way to come to America to exercise all the God-given liberties that are here, that were defined so well in our Declaration of Independence and protected in our Constitution. That's ``immigrant.''

That's where the vigor comes from, for the American population and civilization, among our brothers. It's God-given liberty, but it's also the vigor of those who were inspired to come to America.

So, Mr. Speaker, I recognize there are only about 3 minutes left, but I'd be very happy to yield to the gentleman from Texas, who is very reliable and a very clear voice, as much time as there may remain.


Mr. KING of Iowa. Reclaiming my time and thanking the gentleman from Texas, I add up those numbers and it looks like a number approaching 60 percent of the resources used by the Federal Government to prosecute have to do with something coming cross the border, whether it's people, or it's 90 percent of the illegal drugs consumed in America is the other component of that presentation. So if we control this border, Mr. Speaker, we can control the 34.9 percent of the prosecutions about reentry. We have roughly a quarter of that prosecution that has to do with illegal drugs. And the Drug Enforcement Agency does tell us that between 80 and 90 percent of the illegal drugs consumed in America come from or through Mexico.

If there's a universal position on this side of the aisle, Mr. Speaker, it has to do with secure the border, prove you secured the border, establish that, reestablish respect for the rule of law. At that point, we can have a conversation about some of the ideas that are emerging over on the Senate side and in the secret meetings here in the House of Representatives.

With that, Mr. Speaker, I yield back the balance of my time.

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