Religious Immigration Group Targets Barletta

L.A. Tarone, Standard-Speaker (Hazleton), April 12, 2008

A religious group with a focus on immigration has singled out Hazleton Mayor Lou Barletta for what it termed “demonizing immigrants.”

Christians for Comprehensive Immigration Reform criticized what it calls his “rhetoric.”

On Monday, the group will hold a conference call to “call on Hazelton (sic) Mayor Louis Barletta, state Rep. Daryl Metcalfe (R-Butler County) and other elected officials to embody the teachings of Christ and promote a message of love and respect towards immigrants, instead of fear and exclusion.”

Metcalfe is the main driver behind a five-bill package in the state House that seeks to address illegal immigration in Pennsylvania. The release denounced his report “Invasion PA,” in which he describes what he saw as illegal immigration’s effects on Pennsylvania, and his new caucus called “The State Legislators for Legal Immigration.”

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The press release announcing the call sites a number of statements it attributes to Barletta, including, “Illegal immigrants are destroying (Hazleton)” and “Illegal aliens are destroying the quality of life (in our town).”

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Barletta dismissed the criticism.

“Unfortunately, this is another group that left out one key word, and that word is ‘illegal,’” Barletta said. “I have never been against immigrants—quite the opposite. I have consistently welcomed new immigrants to Hazleton.

“However, illegal aliens are something different. As long as groups such as this one continue to confuse illegal aliens with lawful immigrants we will never have a meaningful discussion of this important issue.

“In fact, legal immigrants are discriminated against and hurt most by illegal immigration—and who’s speaking for them more than Lou Barletta,” he added.

Christians for Comprehensive Immigration Reform is a spinoff of “Sojourners” magazine [pubished by Jim Wallis]. It’s a coalition of about 100 religious groups—including the Mennonite Church U.S.A. and the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference—that favor a path to citizenship for people in the country illegally.

When formed, the group announced that one of its main intentions was to send 200,000 letters to Congress and the White House asking for “comprehensive immigration reform,” which critics call amnesty.

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