By Rep. Lou Barletta
When I was mayor of Hazleton, I learned firsthand how illegal immigration hurts small-town America. I also learned that the federal government was not going to do anything to stop it.
Like many Americans, I am tired of politicians in Washington who talk about securing our borders and fighting illegal immigration, only to fail to deliver on more broken promises.
Donald Trump is not a politician. He immediately caught my attention as the only presidential candidate to seriously highlight the problem of illegal immigration, correctly pointing out that it threatens both our national security and American jobs. Despite constant attacks by the media, liberal opponents and even members of his own party, Trump has remained committed to addressing this issue. He has laid out a smart plan to enforce our immigration laws, secure our borders and protect American workers.
I became convinced of the federal government’s inability to address the problem of illegal immigration in 2006, when Derek Kichline, a 29-year-old city resident and father of three young kids, was shot and killed while working on his pickup truck. The killer, an illegal immigrant and known gang member, had been arrested and released from custody more than a half-dozen times in New York City – a sanctuary city that refused to honor federal immigration laws.
The first bill I introduced in Congress cracked down on sanctuary cities by withholding federal funding from them until they abandoned these dangerous policies. Yet, even after the murder of 32-year-old Kate Steinle by an illegal immigrant and convicted felon in San Francisco, a sanctuary city, politicians in Washington refused to muster the courage to send my bill to the president’s desk.
Ending sanctuary cities is a primary focus of Trump’s candidacy. Trump has pledged to enforce our current immigration laws and withhold funding from sanctuary cities. Trump also will allow federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents to do their jobs and deport illegal immigrants with criminal records.
Too often in the debate about illegal immigration, we hear about those who knowingly break our laws and commit further crimes and acts of violence at the expense of law-abiding citizens. By standing tough against illegal immigration and prioritizing the elimination of sanctuary cities, Trump is giving voice to the victims of those crimes.
While Trump’s proposed wall along our southern border will help to stop the unmitigated flow of illegal immigrants into our country, Trump is right to also focus on reforming our broken visa system. Nearly 50 percent of the people illegally present in the United States today arrived legally on a visa, the visa expired, and they never went home. I am encouraged that Trump’s immigration plan includes making overstaying a visa a criminal offense, rather than only a civil offense, and implementing a biometric entry and exit system so we can accurately determine who has left the country and who has illegally stayed – measures I have long championed.
Hillary Clinton, by contrast, has pledged a radical expansion of President Barack Obama’s executive amnesty to millions of illegal immigrants – a move that would weaken our border security and place an enormous cost on hardworking taxpayers. At a time when President Obama’s health care law is driving up costs for American workers and families, Clinton is proposing to expand Obamacare to illegal immigrants. And despite testimony by top national security officials that we cannot properly vet refugees coming from Syria, Clinton has called for admitting 500 percent more Syrian refugees.
We have immigration laws for two reasons: to protect national security and to preserve American jobs. Donald Trump’s plan abides by this core principle.
I look forward to helping Trump tackle this critical national security challenge and fight for working Americans.
Originally published in the Times Leader. Read it here.