Barletta Cites Proof, Works to Halt Relocation of Unaccompanied Minors to Hazleton
HAZLETON – Congressman Lou Barletta, PA-11, today repeated his opposition to the relocation to Hazleton or any other location of unaccompanied minors who have recently illegally crossed the U.S. border with Mexico. Barletta cited newly published information as proof of his assertion yesterday that a group specializing in relocating refugees has targeted Hazleton as a housing site for the refugees.
The Times Leader of Wilkes-Barre, PA today confirmed that a non-profit organization called the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants has inquired about the availability of the former Hazleton MinSec Center as a housing location. At a press conference yesterday, Barletta listed a number of his serious concerns about the plan, including public health and national security problems it raised.
“This published information publicly confirms what I had been privately warned about earlier this week,” Barletta said. “There are groups that are looking to relocate the newly arrived unaccompanied minors in neighborhoods across the United States, including Hazleton. We have no assurances that these children have been screened for diseases, or that there have been background checks conducted on them or the people who are seeking to take custody of them. We simply cannot allow this to go unchallenged.”
In the Times Leader story, Lavinia Limon, president and CEO of the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, confirmed Barletta’s information about the Hazleton MinSec site.
“We are doing our due diligence and part of that will include contacting local agencies and seeking input from the community,” Limon said. “We are not ready to proceed at this time. We want to know how the community might feel about having this facility in their community.”
Barletta to Travel to U.S.-Mexico Border Thursday
At his press conference in Hazleton on Monday, Barletta listed a series of questions that he wants answered when he travels to the United States border with Mexico later this week for a field hearing of the House Homeland Security Committee. The July 3rd trip to McAllen, Texas is in response to the growing crisis of tens of thousands of unaccompanied minors entering the country illegally. Barletta expressed his concerns about health screens, background checks on the minors and the people who are expecting to receive them, and the locations inside the United States to which the minors will be taken.
"What assurances do we have that the minors being transported to communities within the United States are not carrying contagious diseases?” Barletta asked. “What background checks are being done – both on the individuals being transported, and also on the people who plan to take custody of them?”
Barletta also disclosed that he has learned that a facility in Hazleton has been identified as a potential relocation site for minors who have crossed the border illegally.
“It has come to my attention that a group called the ‘U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants’ has made inquiries about certain facilities and their availability to be used to house many of these minors. One of them is right here in Hazleton, the MinSec Hazleton Center,” Barletta said. “And this is not some random, shadowy organization. The U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants is well known, and has a long-standing relationship with the Department of Health and Human Services for exactly this purpose.”
Barletta said the federal government is taking part in the transportation path the minors are taking from their home countries – mostly in Central America – through Mexico and into the United States.
“The United States government has become complicit in what amounts to human trafficking.
The drug cartels are charging as much as $7,500 per minor to transport them more than 1,000 miles to the U.S. border,” Barletta said. “At that point, American government officials take over and deliver the individuals to family members elsewhere in the country. That makes our government a participant in the human trafficking transaction, which could include physical and sexual abuse along the way. This is unacceptable.”
Barletta said the already porous American borders are becoming increasingly undefended as Border Patrol agents are tasked with handling the tens of thousands of people illegally crossing in the country. He said health risks and national security questions are the result.
“There are growing health concerns involved, as we have now heard reports of children with measles, scabies, Swine Flu, and other infectious diseases arriving. Tuberculosis is also a concern,” Barletta said. “This is not appropriate – not for Americans, and not for these children.”
“This is especially a problem because we know that the drug cartels, violent gangs, and human traffickers are trying to use the chaos at the border as cover for transporting their own members,” Barletta continued. “There is too much at risk for me to stand by idle while our borders are wide open, our national security is at risk, and the health and welfare of these children – and our own citizens – is at stake.”
In a committee hearing last week, Barletta questioned Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson about the Obama Administration’s knowledge of the coming influx of border crossings. He highlighted an ad that the agency placed in January that solicited “escorts,” or chaperones for as many as 65,000 unaccompanied minors expected to be attempting to cross the border.
“This is what happens when you tell the whole world that you’re rolling out the welcome mat for illegal immigrants. I blame the administration and anyone in Congress who openly talked about a pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants, which in reality means amnesty for anyone who has broken our immigration laws,” Barletta said. “The migration of these children began back in 2012, when the president began his DACA program – which means Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. DACA is in reality President Obama’s pledge that he will not deport minors.”
Barletta also took issue with the administration’s assertion that most of the individuals are coming to the United States to escape violence in their home countries, mostly Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador.
“There have been accounts that the news media in their home countries are reporting that it is perfectly alright for minors to sneak into this country,” Barletta said. “They are seeking what are called ‘permisos,’ which are court dates that mean they have to stay in the United States at least temporarily before facing deportation proceedings. From there, of course, they plan to just fade into the fabric of our neighborhoods.”
Barletta said he understands that for many, it may be a difficult decision to send minors into such an uncertain and treacherous situation.
“As a father and grandfather, I truly cannot imagine the heartache that would come from making the decision to send a child on such a dangerous journey,” Barletta said. “But I must ask, why is this just America’s problem? At a time when we know that one out of every three homeless people in America is a veteran of our military, again I ask, why is this only America’s problem?”
The field hearing of the Homeland Security Committee, titled “Crisis on the Texas Border: Surge of Unaccompanied Minors,” will be held on Thursday, July 3, 2014 in McAllen, Texas at 1:00 p.m. (Eastern Time). The hearing will be held at South Texas College’s Technology Campus, Building B Auditorium, Room 193, at 3700 W. Military Highway in McAllen, Texas. A live video feed of the hearing will be available here.