Rep. Lou Barletta (R-Luzerne) rose to national prominence based in large part on his reputation as a loud voice against illegal immigration while he was Mayor.
The U.S. Third Circuit Court of Appeals overturned Hazleton’s strictest-in-the-nation ordinances, which would have punished landlords renting to illegal immigrants.
(The U.S. Supreme Court ordered the Court to reconsider the case in 2011).
And so it’s little surprise that he categorically rejected Monday’s overtures by Republicans in favor of an immigration bill that includes amnesty for the more than 12 million undocumented immigrants currently living in the United States.
“A path to citizenship is giving a green light to anyone who wants to come here illegally,” he said.
“This is an amnesty bill America won’t be able to afford,” he said of the proposal by 8 Senators – 4 Democrats and 4 Republicans. “Making illegal aliens legal will cost American taxpayers $2.6 trillion over 10 years.”
He cited a 2007 report by the conservative Heritage Foundation think tank that put the cost of amnesty – including the tax revenue from now-legal residents – would be $2.6 trillion over ten years.
“So many illegal aliens are unskilled. 60 percent have no high school degree, so many would ultimately be dependent on social programs, welfare.”
Yet, today’s proposal has been called a bipartisan breakthrough. It involves border enforcement, employer enforcement, a reformed legal immigration system, and a path to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented immigrants already living within the United States.
It appears the legislative proposal may have been devised to guide President Obama on immigration reform. The policy blueprint is meant to represent the interests of both Democrats and Republicans and will serve as the basis for legislation that the Senators hope to formally introduce in March.
And for an issue as complex as immigration, compromise may be the key. Democratic Senator Bob Casey supports immigration reform.
“While he has just begun to review this latest proposal, he believes that any time you have Republicans and Democrats working across the aisle to come to a bipartisan consensus on a tough problem that is a positive development,” said Casey spokesman John Rizzi.
Senator Pat Toomey (R) is reserving judgment pending further details of the plan.
Republicans faced a stark reality in the aftermath of the 2012 election: they were losing latino voters big time. It’s the fast-growing segment of the population. As soon as the day after Barack Obama was re-elected, several prominent conservatives gave up the fight on the issue.
(Obama will unveil his own immigration proposal today, reportedly very similar to the Senators’.)
Barletta said his party was making a mistake.
“They’re wrong. I believe there’s a lot of support because this is an issue they want to go away. But it’s not that simple,” he said. “I don’t know how fiscal conservatives could support something that would add $2.6 trillion to the deficit.”
He argued that the solution to immigration begins with a way to track current undocumented residents, followed by border security and then mandatory e-verify.