Rep. Lou Barletta (R-Pa.) said he has been treated in ways similar to GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump for speaking out against the crimes committed by illegal immigrants in America, emphasizing that Trump was not referring to all immigrants.
Barletta, a member of the House Homeland Security Committee, also credited Trump with bringing the issue to the forefront.
“Maybe it could have been said in a different way, you know, maybe he didn’t articulate it in a way that was acceptable to many but I’ve been on that same side of the fence that Donald Trump has been on. When I first came forward with the law I created in Hazelton, I was immediately, media from all around the world came to interview me and many times, especially in print media, when I would talk about illegal immigrants, the first paragraph would have illegal immigrant and the second paragraph would leave out the word illegal,” Barletta told PJ Media at a news conference held by the Center for Immigration Studies at the National Press Club.
“Then my message became anti-immigrant, which is the furthest from – I was defending immigrants and wanting them to have a better opportunity in America, to have a better education for their children, a better job and earn more money, but the article became anti-immigrant.”
Barletta was one of the first mayors in the nation to issue a local ordinance directed specifically at illegal immigration.
Barletta said he started to use the term “illegal alien” instead of “illegal immigrant” so his position was not misconstrued.
“So I understood what Donald Trump was saying and I don’t believe he intended that every single person that comes in is a rapist and a murderer. However, nobody here can say that some that have crossed the border are not. We know for a fact some of that is true but however the media will take, many times when you’re dealing with this issue, and portray it in a way that was not the entire intent,” he said.
“So I’ve experienced many of that. I’ve been called a racist, a bigot. I’ve been called every name in the book. My grandson is half-Dominican. I take exception when somebody tries to portray me as anti-immigrant. However, it’s why many politicians will not deal with this issue. They simply won’t go there.”
Barletta said the media often portrays politicians as anti-immigrant if they oppose illegal immigration, which will likely discourage many presidential candidates from discussing the issue.
“How is it better for the immigrants that come to this country for a better opportunity to allow millions to come in here and steal jobs off of them or depress the wage that they are going to earn or hurt them in educating their children? It’s just ludicrous,” he said.
“The silver lining on this whole thing is Donald Trump, he brought this issue to the forefront, and Kate Steinle happened to just qualify some of the things he was saying,” Barletta added.
An illegal immigrant who was deported five times to Mexico killed Kathryn Steinle in San Francisco, a “sanctuary city,” earlier this month.
“I believe politicians will find that the American people have had it. They’ve had it with talking points. When an incident like this happens, everyone steps up and steps forward but they don’t go through with it and I think Donald Trump is going to be example of America is looking for leadership,” Barletta said.
Jamiel Shaw, whose son was killed by an illegal immigrant brought to the U.S. as a child, testified in Congress in February about his son’s murder.
“The illegal alien DREAMer that murdered my son only served four months of an eight-month sentence for assault with a deadly weapon and battery on a police officer,” Shaw said.
“He was released from the county jail the day before he executed my son. Why was this violent illegal alien allowed to walk the streets of America instead of being deported?”
In response to a Center for Immigration Studies FOIA request, Immigration and Customs Enforcement revealed that state and local sanctuary policies resulted in the release of more than 8,000 illegal immigrants with criminal records in 276 jurisdictions that federal authorities sought to deport. The data covered an eight-month period in 2014.
Of the 8,000 illegal immigrants released, almost 1,900 went on to commit other crimes and were re-arrested.
“Shame on the rest of the political class that it took a carnival barker like Donald Trump to get this issue on the front burner. This is something that all of us here and a number of other people have been talking about, researching on, introducing legislation on for years and years and years. People have been killed long before Kate Steinle,” said Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies.
Krikorian applauded Trump for meeting with the families of victims killed by illegal immigrants.
“It took a reality TV star with $9 billion and nothing to lose to get the issue on front burner,” he said. “Whatever [Trump’s] qualities, his success at this is an indictment of the entire political class.”
Sheriff Chuck Jenkins of Frederick County, Md., said his department has turned over many illegal immigrants to ICE for committing crimes, including robbery, murder and rape.
Both Jessica Vaughan, director of policy studies at the center, and Jenkins said Congress should pass a bill that cuts off federal funding for cities that release illegal immigrants with criminal records into communities. Barletta agreed.
He also told PJ Media that Congress should ensure the Obama administration is enforcing current law, which requires the federal government to deny visas to countries that will not allow the U.S. to return illegal immigrants with criminal records.
“There needs to be some action rather than doing nothing – it’s not the answer,” he said.