Pennsylvania politician Lou Barletta has built his whole career (and a national reputation) on supporting measures to obstruct immigration reform. In the face of an urgent effort by the GOP to repair relations with Latinos, conservative Congressman Barletta made the following statement on Monday:
“Anyone who believes that they’re going to win over the Latino vote is grossly mistaken. The majority that are here illegally are low-skilled or may not even have a high school diploma. The Republican Party is not going to compete over who can give more social programs out. [Latinos] will become Democrats because of the social programs they’ll depend on.”
That has to have Senators John McCain and Marco Rubio groaning in despair. They’ve been working furiously with a bipartisan group of senators, known as the Gang of Eight, to come up with immigration reform that will be acceptable to both sides of the chamber’s aisle.
While McCain has a history of flip-flopping on the issue, depending on his political fortunes, the election results of 2012 seem to have brought him to his senses. Rubio has been sounding the warning to the GOP since 2011 that they can’t afford to ignore Latino voters, who were a huge factor in the latest Republican losses.
Barletta doesn’t care. He began his anti-immigrant crusade as the mayor of Hazelton, Pennsylvania. According to The Morning Call, he signed ordinances as mayor to punish businesses for hiring undocumented immigrants, and landlords for renting to them. He also declared that English was Hazelton’s official language. The fact that these ordinances were struck down as unconstitutional–because immigration law is the province of the federal government–hasn’t deterred the man a bit.
Now a Congressman, Barletta jumped on board early in January to co-sponsor the Birthright Citizenship Act of 2013, which is an attempt to deny citizenship to Latino children born in the U.S. to non-citizens. Never mind the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which can’t be changed simply by passing a new law. It says:
“Section 1. All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside.”
Barletta discounts the 14th Amendment as applying only to African-American slaves (in spite of a century of court rulings that say otherwise). In his new effort to derail reform, Barletta is hoping other Congressmen join him, but he’s prepared to go it alone. As he points out:
“I stood alone for a long time as a mayor when I couldn’t find one elected official willing to come near me at the time.”
Of course, he also didn’t accomplish much that endured, either.
Now he’s a newly-appointed member of the House Homeland Security Committee, ready to defend the borders to keep the undocumented out of the country rather than deal with the ones who are already here.
Sounds like McCain and Rubio need to make a major investment in painkillers. For their heads. And the other end, as well.