AP, February 7, 2008
HAZLETON, Pa.—Hazleton Mayor Lou Barletta, who has gained a national following with his get-tough approach to illegal immigration, is running for Congress.
Barletta announced Thursday that he will seek the Republican nomination to challenge incumbent 12-term Democratic Rep. Paul Kanjorski, who represents a heavily Democratic district in northeastern Pennsylvania.
“I realized that I’m not just fighting for Hazleton any more. I’m fighting for people all over the country who want their voices heard,” Barletta said.
“I’ve done as much as I can fighting illegal immigration as the mayor of a city. I need to take this fight to Washington, because that’s where the problem needs to be fixed.”
In a statement Thursday, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee accused Barletta of favoring the privatization of Social Security and “gambling with our seniors’ retirement savings,” a line of attack Democrats hope will resonate in a district whose population is largely elderly.
Premising his campaign on opposition to illegal immigration, Barletta said he wants to secure the nation’s borders, airports and seaports; target criminals who supply fraudulent documents to illegal immigrants; go after “sanctuary cities” that shelter them; and “crack down on businesses that are hiring illegal immigrants, who are profiting from cheap labor and depressing the wages of the American worker.”
Barletta has sought to make his city of 30,000 inhospitable to illegal immigrants, whom he says are responsible for violent crime, graffiti, and overburdened schools and hospitals.
At Barletta’s urging, Hazleton City Council in 2006 approved the Illegal Immigration Relief Act, which sought to deny business permits to companies that employ illegal immigrants, fine landlords who rent to them and require tenants to register and pay for a rental permit.
Anti-illegal immigration activists hailed Barletta’s approach, and he became a fixture on cable TV and talk radio, advocating his view that illegal immigrants are wrecking the country and that local governments can no longer wait for federal action to do something about it.
Kanjorski’s district is a largely blue-collar area where illegal immigration is a hot-button issue. Anticipating that Barletta would run, the incumbent in recent months has sought to portray himself as tough on illegal immigration.
[Editor’s note: Lou Barletta’s campaign website can be accessed here.]