Originally published in the Citizens’ Voice.
By Bob Kalinowski
After U.S. Rep. Lou Barletta announced a crackdown on illegal immigration in 2005 while mayor of Hazleton, he felt there were few people to turn to for advice.
He doesn’t want Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump to be in a similar position as he continues to use illegal immigration as a central focus of his bid for the White House.
Barletta, R-Hazleton, said he is in the middle of drafting a policy position paper for Trump that will include his own dealings with the hot button issue — from Hazleton to Washington, D.C. — and some advice.
While mayor in 2005, Barletta introduced an ordinance targeting landlords that rented to illegal immigrants and businesses that hired them. A federal judge ruled the law was unconstitutional and the U.S. Supreme Court later declined to hear Hazleton’s appeal.
“I was the first mayor in the country to introduce a bill like that. It brought national attention to the issue and we fought it all the way to the Supreme Court. During that time, there wasn’t many people I could turn to for advice. There was no one I could call or ask for advice at the time. I was out there by myself,” Barletta said Friday when asked about the paper he’s preparing for Trump.
Barletta said he was wrongly labeled “anti-immigrant” by members of the media. When he’d talk about illegal immigrants, reporters made it sound like he was talking about all immigrants, he said.
Trump faces the same problem, Barletta said.
Barletta said he started saying “illegal alien” instead to differentiate from legal immigrants.
Barletta was one of Trump’s first supporters in Congress. The congressman said many have talked tough on illegal immigration, but it’s mostly just bluster. He said Trump seems to be the real deal and that’s why Americans are rallying around him.
“The American people are angry,” Barletta said. “If it wasn’t for Donald Trump bringing this issue up, we wouldn’t be having a national discussion.”
Politicians are afraid to deal with illegal immigration but it’s a winner at the ballot box, Barletta said.
When Barletta proposed the ordinance, the city’s population was majority Democrat and had become nearly 50 percent Hispanic, yet he won re-election as mayor in 2007 with 89 percent of the vote, he said.
He acknowledges the issue helped propel him to Congress as well.
It could help put Trump in the White House, Barletta said.
More than a decade after his proposed ordinance, Barletta says illegal immigration has only gotten worse.
He said he’s proposed bills in Congress to penalize so-called “sanctuary cities” and crack down on foreigners who overstay travel visas, but there is little will in Congress to act.
A Trump presidency and a Republican Congress might finally make progress on the issue, Barletta said.
“I endorsed Trump early on before many were even thinking of doing it, so I developed a relationship with the campaign and the Trumps and I am going to do all I can to make him president,” Barletta said.
Barletta said he meets with Trump’s campaign weekly and plans to deliver his paper to them next week. Whether Trump follows the advice is to be determined, Barletta said.
“I won’t be offended if he doesn’t want my advice,” Barletta said.