Rep. Lou Barletta (R-PA) thinks that Republicans should not take up immigration reform or even make an effort to compete for the votes of the fastest growing demographic in the country because he believes that Hispanics are "low-skilled" and dependent on social programs who will vote for Democrats because of it.
It's about the worst possible messaging for the party still ringing from defeat at the polls in November, during an election which saw President Barack Obama trounce his Republican opponent by a 3-to-1 margin among Hispanics -- but that didn't stop Barletta from saying it.
"I hope politics is not at the root of why we're rushing to pass a bill. Anyone who believes that they're going to win over the Latino vote is grossly mistaken," Barletta said, according to Pennsylvania newspaper The Morning Call. "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. They will become Democrats because of the social programs they'll depend on."
The White House and a bipartisan group of Senators are outlining plans this week to reform the nation's immigration system in a way that will permit the children of undocumented immigrants to stay in the country and become citizens, as well as provide a pathway to citizenship for individuals who broke the law to come to the U.S.
That, Barletta said, is akin to granting "amnesty" to criminals. "It's amnesty that America can't afford," he reportedly added. "We have to stop people from coming in illegally. This will be a green light for anyone who wants to come to America illegally and then be granted citizenship one day."
The conservative congressman became known to be one of his party's hardliners on immigration in 2006, when as mayor of Hazleton, Pennsylvania he declared that his city would become "the toughest place on illegal immigrants in America." While mayor he worked to pass a local ordinance called the "Illegal Immigration Relief Act," which was intended to penalize businesses and landlords that employed or rented living space to undocumented immigrants. Due to lawsuits, the act has yet to be enforced and, although several federal appeals courts ruled against it, it was remanded back to the 3rd Circuit in 2011 after the Supreme Court ruled on the Arizona immigration case. It was heard again in August 2012 and awaits a decision.
If the GOP talking points leaked Monday by the Hispanic Leadership Network are any indication of where the Republican Party wants to position itself with Latino voters, Barletta may be asked -- or pressured -- to reconsider his position.
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