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Rep. Barletta urges Republicans to stay tough on illegal immigration

U.S. Rep. Lou Barletta on Saturday urged Republicans to resist calls to soften their stance on illegal immigration, saying their opposition to President Obama’s policies won’t doom national campaigns by alienating Hispanics.

Barletta, speaking to more than 150 Republicans in a ballroom at the Wyndham Grand Pittsburgh overlooking Point State Park, said he won a third term as mayor of Hazleton after pushing through a controversial law penalizing businesses and landlords who hired or housed illegal immigrants.

“My city was 40 percent Hispanic. I won with 90 percent of the vote. This theory that, if we stand up against illegal immigration, that immigrants won’t like us is just plain wrong,” Barletta, R-Hazleton, said at the Republican Committee of Allegheny County’s annual Spirit of Lincoln Dinner.

Latinos, the country’s fastest-growing demographic, voted for Obama over GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney by about 70 percent to 30 percent, according to a CNN exit poll conducted during the 2012 election. Eight years earlier, President George W. Bush won 44 percent of the Latino vote, according to the network’s exit poll.

Barletta panned Obama’s attempt to officially shield many undocumented workers from deportation, which a federal judge blocked, as “amnesty.”

“We have immigration laws in this country for two main reasons: to preserve American jobs and to protect American security,” Barletta said.

The American Civil Liberties Union successfully sued in federal court to block Barletta’s immigration law from taking effect in Hazleton, though it since has been used as a model in places like Arizona, he said.

Though outnumbered by Democrats, Allegheny County has more Republicans than any other county in Pennsylvania, making it key to the party’s statewide hopes, said House Speaker Mike Turzai, R-Marshall.

Topping the ballot this year are three vacancies on the state Supreme Court’s seven-member bench, which makes the November election a chance for both parties to shape state law.

Scandals led to two of the vacancies. Justice Joan Orie Melvin, a Republican from Marshall, was convicted in 2013 of using public resources for her campaign. Justice Seamus McCaffery resigned in October after lewd emails he sent became public. Chief Justice Ronald Castille, 71, a Republican, opened the third vacancy when he decided not to seek another 10-year term.

Six Democrats and six Republicans are vying for their parties’ nominations.

“If you listened to Congressman Barletta, you now know why judges are so important,” said one of those candidates, Superior Court Judge Judy Olson, 57, of Franklin Park. “… Your legislators can pass the best laws ever, and with the stroke of a pen, a judge can undo it.”

The other Republicans running are Commonwealth Court Judge Anne Covey, 55, of Upper Makefield; Allegheny County Common Pleas Judge Cheryl Allen of Hampton; Adams County President Judge Michael George; Montour County District Attorney Rebecca Warren; and state Supreme Court Justice Correale Stevens of Dorrance in Luzerne County, the former Superior Court president judge appointed by former Gov. Tom Corbett to replace Orie Melvin.

Mike Wereschagin is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7900 or [email protected].


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