Lou Barletta, Pennsylvania's Republican U.S. Senate nominee, took a hard stance earlier this month on illegal immigrant children being separated from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border.
“In America, we have laws,” Barletta told Pittsburgh’s KDKA-TV. “Should you or I commit a criminal act this afternoon after we’re done with this interview, we’re going to be separated from our families. So the laws of the country state that when you commit a criminal offense, ‘Children, you will be separated during the custody.’ I don’t think we should have separate laws for people who come in the country illegally and other laws for American citizens.”
Barletta — a U.S. representative from the state's 11th district — told the station that separating children from parents or guardians also can act as a deterrent to illegal immigrants.
“Remember,” he added to KDKA. “Why people come to the country illegally is because we’re not enforcing the laws. So if people knew when they came here what would happen, we would not have this situation.”
'Nobody wants to see children separated from their parents'
The Trump administration had decided to prosecute all illegal border crossers, which forced the separation of children from their parents per federal law and longstanding DHS policy — and Barletta, an early supporter of the president, has followed suit.
But in the wake of President Donald Trump signing an executive order last week ending the separation of children from their parents, it appears Barletta is shifting his own stance.
Asked Monday if he believes illegal immigrant child-parent separation at the border is morally wrong, Barletta replied that Trump's zero-tolerance policy had "magnified that whole situation," PennLive reported.
'It was those images'
"It was those images," Barletta added to reporters, PennLive noted. "Nobody wants to see children separated from their parents." In fact, it was "those images" of crying children that led to Barletta reversing his stance on the issue, the Morning Call reported.
Barletta also said he was "disturbed" by the images, PennLive said.
"The importance of the rule of law has created this problem of illegal immigration. It becomes an emotional issue," he added, the Morning Call reported. "So let’s fix the parts we can and have compassion for the children and families. No one wants to see them separate."
Barletta said Congress should change the immigration law to alleviate the entire problem, PennLive said: "Let's stop this. Instead of deciding should we keep children together with their families, why don't we do something better and not even have the problem at all?"
What did Barletta's campaign say?
TheBlaze on Tuesday asked Barletta's campaign about the Morning Call's report — specifically that the GOP Senate candidate was moved to reverse his stance on illegal immigrant children being separated from their parents at the border because of images of crying children — as well as Barletta's overall stance on the matter. Campaign spokesman David Jackson told TheBlaze that Barletta "does not want to see families separated."
"Lou Barletta has been the leading voice against illegal immigration since his time as the mayor of Hazleton," Jackson said, adding that "the best way to ensure" that family separation "does not happen is for the federal government to enforce our laws and stop illegal immigration. Lou’s opponent, Sen. Bob Casey, has taken the opposite approach, endorsing dangerous catch-and-release open border policies that will only make the problem worse.”
How did Democrats respond?
Pennsylvania Democratic Party spokesman Brandon Cwalin blasted Barletta for not condemning family separation at the border, the Morning Call reported.
“Either Congressman Barletta doesn’t believe separating children from their parents and housing in cages is wrong, or he’s too politically craven to state this simple moral truth," Cwalin told the paper.
Democratic U.S. Sen. Casey has been actively opposed to Trump's zero-tolerance policy.