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Pa. lawmakers: Curb what they call 'illegal alien invasion'

Written by Jim Hook/Chambersburg Public Opinion | Mar 16, 2017 12:22 PM
daryl-metcalfe.jpg

GOP state Representative Daryl Metcalfe/Photo by Pa. Legislature

(Harrisburg) -- State Representative Rob Kauffman, R-Chambersburg, joined four other Republican lawmakers this week to announce legislation intended to curb undocmented immigration in Pennsylvania.

"There is a new sheriff in the Oval Office who is serious about exercising his rightful authority to keep our nation safe from the illegal alien invasion," House State Government Committee Chairman Daryl Metcalfe, R-Butler, said. "Now with the executive branch of the federal government no longer AWOL, it has never been more urgent for state lawmakers to actively do their part by advancing legislation to ensure that the economic and national security interests of law-abiding citizens and legal immigrants always come first."

The package of six bills announced Monday, known as National Security Begins at Home, addresses "sanctuary" cities and colleges, welfare benefits and jobs - all of which encourage illegal immigration, according to Metcalfe.

"We need to ensure that we're shutting off the faucets that attract illegals to Pennsylvania," he said.

The state's "unauthorized" immigrant population grew by nearly 40 percent from 2009-14, according to The Pew Research Center. The state in 2014 had an estimated 180,000 unauthorized immigrants, 160,000 of them in the Philadelphia metro area.

Most of the nation's 11.1 million unauthorized immigrants live in 20 major cities, according to The Pew Center. About half are from Mexico.

Fifteen Pennsylvania residents stood in silent protest during the lawmaker's press conference held in the Capitol Media Center. Standing halfway through the meeting, they held signs that read "alien invasion = paranoia," "No Ban. No Wall. No Raids," "Immigrant lives matter," and "no human is an alien."

Kauffman said he will reintroduce legislation creating the Professional Licensees Illegal Employment Act. A nursing home administrator, landscape architect or other licensed professional who knowingly hires an unauthorized alien in connection with the person's licensed profession would lose his or her license from the Bureau of Professional and Occupational Affairs.

"The business community needs to be doing their part and making sure those they hire are United States citizens or have a permit to work here," said Kauffman. "Employers who circumnavigate the law and knowingly employ illegal immigrants would be penalized under my bill."

If enacted, Kauffman's Professional Licensees Illegal Employment Act would revoke the license of any licensed professional who knowingly employed or permitted the employment of an unauthorized alien.

"It's very simple. It's not rocket science," Kauffman said. "This is just attempting to make sure that our employers in the Commonwealth... are putting a good faith effort into being certain that those who are working for them are authorized to be working here in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania."

Kauffman represents a district where more than 70 percent of voters voted for Trump in 2016.

Joining  Kauffman and Metcalfe were representatives Doyle Heffley of Carbon County, Jerry Knowles of Berks/Carbon/Schuylkill and Ryan Warner of Fayette/Westmoreland.

"Many (of the bills) aren't new, as they were introduced in previous sessions," Kauffman said.

The package includes:

  • Metcalfe's legislation (House Bill 856) would require all government entities to enroll in the federal government's free E-Verify program to confirm the validity of Social Security numbers for prospective employees. Failing to comply would result in the suspension of all state licenses, permits, registrations or certificates held by any private business caught employing illegal aliens. Compliance audits could be initiated by state labor department or any elected official in the state. The bill is modeled after the Legal Arizona Workers Act that has been upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court.
  • Knowles has introduced legislation (HB 14) that would prohibit any sanctuary campuses from receiving state funding. Swarthmore College and the University of Pennsylvania have sanctuary policies for undocumented aliens.
  • Warner's legislation (HB 28) would require state and local law enforcement agencies to cooperate with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement in the capture and detainment of unauthorized immigrants or face criminal and economic sanctions. The bill would reinforce sanctions outlined in President Trump's executive order, which would strip away federal funding from more than 300 sanctuary cities, including Philadelphia, that refuse to help ICE. Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney has said he would defy President Trump's executive order.
  • Under HB 826, sponsored by Heffley, any state agency that administers public benefits must verify that those benefits are being paid to only those who are eligible through the Systematic Alien Verification of Entitlement (SAVE) program operated by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. 

"Our public resources are not limitless, and my legislation would ensure that our hard-earned tax dollars are spent helping our legal residents," Heffley said. "We are morally obligated to provide assistance to those who are legally residing in Pennsylvania, not illegal immigrants."

After the press conference, some protesters spoke to reporters with Capitolwire.

Mary Barnes and her fellow York County resident Carol Stowell said they fear the proposed legislation could lead to further racial profiling of people of color and the deportation of taxpaying, productive undocumented immigrants who aren't committing crimes and have ties to families in the state. The legislation also could lead to lawsuits against municipalities who they say are protecting individuals under the Constitution from unreasonable searches and seizures -- including ICE detainers that are not court-issued warrants.

Barnes also objected to the language that she said stereotypes human beings.

"We're talking about human beings," she said. "And then (the lawmakers) attack on the word 'invasion' so that they become even more alien-like, like Martians. The soul of our country is based on being in the common good and welcoming each other. It was incredibly offensive to hear over and over again."

Staff members of the American Civil Liberties Union were also outside the meeting room. The ACLU has promised President Trump to "see you in court."

Warner "made a vague reference to a determination by the federal government, but that suggested that there is some kind of due process involved with ICE detainers," said Andy Hoover, ACLU communications director. "There is no judicial review on those detainers. It's just the executive branch asking 'Can you hold the person for two days? And we'll figure out if they have an immigration status.' That's incredibly problematic because they're holding people without cause,"

Elizabeth Randol, legislative director for the ACLU, said that lawmakers also are furthering the misconception that overstaying a visa is a criminal offense rather than a civil violation.

"If you're going to say: 'We need to follow the rule of law. We're a country of laws,'" Randol said, "it would be nice if ... they would get the law right."

This article is part of a content-sharing partnership between WITF and Public Opinion Online.

Capitolwire contributed to this story.

 

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