Barletta Applauds Opening of Office to Aid Victims of Illegal Immigration

Apr 26, 2017
Press Release
Repeats Call for Enforcement of Existing Federal Immigration Laws, Penalties for Sanctuary Cities

WASHINGTON – Congressman Lou Barletta (PA-11) today applauded the launch of an office within the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), which will provide services to people who have been victims of crimes committed by illegal aliens.  The Victims of Immigration Crime Engagement Office (VOICE) was established by President Donald J. Trump’s executive order of January 25, 2017 (found here), which dealt with enforcing immigration laws in the interior of the country.  That executive order included provisions cutting-off certain federal grant funding to sanctuary cities, or jurisdictions which refuse to cooperate with federal immigration officials or obey immigration law.

“One of the main reasons I ran for Congress was my frustration with the federal government’s refusal to enforce our existing immigration laws,” Barletta said.  “When I was mayor, Hazleton was overrun by illegal immigrants who brought with them gangs, drugs, identify theft, fraud, and other crimes.  I always heard that we have to have compassion for the person who comes here illegally, but no one speaks up for the victims of these crimes.  I had to sit with people who lost loved ones who were victims, and I have compassion for them.  I commend the Trump Administration for opening the VOICE office and standing up for victims and their families.”

The VOICE office will be housed under the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency.  VOICE seeks to use a victim-centered approach to support victims and their families; promote awareness of available services to crime victims; and build collaborative partnerships with community stakeholders assisting victims.  ICE has established a toll-free hotline to triage calls and provide victims with support.  The number is 1-855-48-VOICE or 1-855-488-6423.

Another section of the same executive order cut off federal grants to sanctuary cities, an issue long championed by the congressman.  A federal district court judge in San Francisco yesterday issued a ruling temporarily blocking this portion of the executive order.  However, the ruling does not affect the administration’s ability to enforce existing laws, including those which withhold certain federal grant funding to sanctuary cities, nor does it impact the government’s ability to designate jurisdictions as “sanctuaries” or develop regulations governing such jurisdictions.

Barletta has authored legislation that would go even farther than the president’s executive orders.  Barletta has introduced the Mobilizing Against Sanctuary Cities Act, H.R. 83, which will stop all federal funds from flowing to states or localities which resist or ban enforcement of federal immigration laws, or flatly refuse to cooperate with immigration officials.  The bill prohibits any federal funding for a minimum period of one year to any state or local government which has a policy or law that prevents them from assisting immigration authorities in enforcing federal immigration law.  ICE lists about 300 such localities in the United States.  Barletta’s bill directs the attorney general to compile an annual list of such cities and issue a report on any particular state or locality upon request from a member of Congress.  A state or local government would only regain federal funding eligibility after the attorney general certifies that its laws and policies are in compliance with federal immigration statutes.  This is the third time he has introduced the legislation.

Barletta introduced the bill as his first piece of legislation as a freshman congressman in 2011 because of his personal experience with the danger of sanctuary cities while he was mayor of Hazleton.  In 2006, a 29-year-old local father of three, Derek Kichline, was murdered by an illegal immigrant who had been released by law enforcement a number of times, including by the sanctuary city of New York.  Additionally, Barletta was spurred to reintroduce the bill in 2015 following the San Francisco murder of 32-year-old Kate Steinle, whose accused killer was a seven-time felon who had been deported five times previously.  

“Sanctuary cities are dangerous to public safety and we should stop supporting them with federal tax dollars,” Barletta said.  “As a former mayor, I know that no mayor has the right to pick and choose which federal laws to follow, just like American citizens do not have the right to pick and choose which section of the criminal code they want to follow.  I am hopeful that the administration will appeal this misguided ruling, and in the meantime, I will continue to work with my colleagues to ensure that we enforce existing laws to keep Americans safe.”