I recently asked both candidates running for the 11th CD seat about their thoughts on the Hazleton immigration controversy. Dr. Joseph F. Leonardi the Republican Candidate gave us his thoughts earlier. Today I received a response from Democratic Congressman Paul Kanjorski:
Thank you for your inquiry regarding my position on the Illegal Alien Relief Act Ordinance recently adopted by the City of Hazleton.
Our immigrant heritage has helped make Northeastern Pennsylvania, and the United States, what we are today. And while we must remain true to our historic role as a beacon of freedom and opportunity, our government must take appropriate steps to protect American citizens and taxpayers from the real costs and security risks associated with illegal immigration.
In my view, the issue of illegal immigration is of the utmost importance and must be effectively and immediately addressed by the federal government. While I sympathize with communities around the country struggling with an influx of illegal immigrants, including the City of Hazleton, I believe it is the responsibility of the President and the Congress to address this issue. Moreover, the U.S. Supreme Court has repeatedly ruled that jurisdiction over this matter rests at the federal level.
Because legal questions would undoubtedly arise as a result of the well-intentioned actions of Mayor Barletta and the Hazleton City Council, I requested an analysis from the experts at the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service (CRS) to determine how the ordinance pertains to current federal law. I also requested this analysis because of my concerns about a potential financial burden being placed on Hazleton taxpayers to pay for legal fees in defense of the ordinance. CRS concluded that under federal law "there is reason to believe that state and federal courts would be precluded on preemption grounds from enforcing many aspects of the...ordinance, as such matters are already regulated."
However, President Bush has the responsibility, as well as the authority, to effectively enforce our nation's laws to prevent illegal immigration and to shut off the employment magnet that draws illegal immigrants to the United States. In 1986, Congress passed the Immigration Reform and Control Act with my support. This legislation sought to end unauthorized employment of illegal aliens by imposing penalties on employers who knowingly hire or continue to employ aliens not authorized to work in the United States.
Unfortunately, under the Bush Administration, enforcement of these laws, especially those pertaining to the hiring of illegal immigrants by those seeking cheap labor, has declined significantly. According to CRS, worksite arrests fell from 17,552 in 1997 to 445 in 2003. Fines collected from companies illegally hiring undocumented aliens declined from almost $3.7 million in 1999 to $62,000 in 2005. Finally, according to government statistics, between 1999 and 2003, work-site enforcement operations by the Immigration and Naturalization Service, and its successor agency, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, were scaled back by 95 percent.
All Americans should be very concerned about the Bush Administration's failure to enforce our existing immigration laws and prevent illegal immigration. For these reasons, as well as my concerns about securing our nation's borders to prevent terrorism, I supported legislation in December 2005 known as H.R. 4437, the Border Protection, Antiterrorism, and Illegal Immigration Control Act. This legislation seeks to enforce and strengthen our nation's current immigration laws, protect our southern border, prevent companies from hiring illegal immigrants and increase penalties on those that do, and forgo ill-conceived proposals that grant amnesty.
From my perspective, our nation's immigration system should ensure our national security, protect American workers, and penalize corporate wrongdoers. Above all, we must first secure our borders and prevent illegal immigration. We must also continue to ensure that, like our ancestors, those who respect our laws and come here legally have the opportunity to improve their lives and the lives of their families through the pursuit of the American Dream.
In addition, I am a proud cosponsor of H.R. 997, the English Language Unity Act. If enacted into law, this legislation would declare English as the official language of the United States. Consequently, it would require that all official functions of the United States be conducted in English. It would also require a uniform testing of English language ability of all candidates for naturalization, ensuring that candidates could read the English texts of the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and other significant U.S. laws.
In my view, the use of English as a common language remains vital to our nation's prosperity. Throughout our history, immigrants coming to our shores have studied English in order to become successful entrepreneurs and workers. By declaring English as the official language, we will help to ensure that such prosperity and success can continue.
Again, thank you for contacting me on this issue. Please feel free to contact me again about any other matter of interest or concern to you.
Paul E. Kanjorski Member of Congress
49 minutes ago