In a response to Hazleton, Penn. Mayor Lou Barletta’s call for the defeat of the Administration-backed immigration bill, White House Press Secretary Tony Snow on Wednesday called on the mayor to “take a look” at the measure and what it does to alleviate the problem of illegal immigration.
Earlier in the week, Barletta — who last month was re-nominated for a third term by Republicans while winning the Democratic nomination on write-in votes — told me that the immigration bill before the Senate “is a case of amnesty first, border security second.” The two-term Republican mayor, who addressed his town’s mounting illegal immigration problem with tough sanctions against employers and landlords who knowingly hire and rent to those in the U.S. illegally, added that “the probationary visas provided in the immigration bill are nearly as good as an amnesty because they provide immediately lawful status to all of the estimated 12 million illegal immigrants here now.”
When I shared Barletta’s criticism with Snow at the afternoon briefing for White House reporters, the President’s top spokesman responded: “Well, I think this is one of those cases where it’s going to make sense to step back and take a look at what the bill does, because, number one, there’s a lot of controversy, for instance over the background checks. The background checks take time. There’s a one-day provision just to sort of see, you know, but there is still a follow-through so that you do have a thorough background check. And those who don’t pass muster get kicked out.”
As for the mayor’s charge that the “Z-Visa” is “as good as an amnesty,” Snow shot back: “. . .what is the first condition for staying in America with a Z-Visa? Answer is, you broke the law by [sic] paying a $1000 fine. . . you’ve got to pay $1000 fine, no matter who you are. That ceases to be amnesty.”
Snow went on to note that along with paying the fine, “[y]ou are placed on probation. You break the law, you get sent back. If you get caught for not having presented proper identification because you do have to come up with a tamper-proof visa, you get sent back, and the employer — tamper-proof ID — and the employer gets socked with penalties.”
Barletta cited his own measure in Hazleton for seizing the business licenses from employers who knowingly hire illegal aliens as a case of punitive action that works. But, Snow insisted, “[T]ake a look at what has happened in terms of the the punishments meted out to employers. There’s absolutely no comparison for what came before this administration. What has happened over the last year-and-a-half, where we have been tougher than anybody in going after those who knowingly hire illegals, and also rounding up in large numbers, in one case, more than 1,000 — those who have been working illegally, who have been knowingly sheltered by employers.”
“[welcome] Mayor Barletta, take a look,” concluded Snow, “I know everybody will scamper back and try to get quotes, but it’s worth taking a good look at what the bill actually does propose because it is not only is not amnesty, it proposes taking a look at finding out who the people are, who is here illegally, they’ve got to identify themselves, they’ve got to get the tamper-proof ID, they’ve got to pay the $1000, they don’t have access to the welfare system, they’ve got to hold a job, they’ve got to learn the language, they can’t break the law — that’s hardly amnesty.”
A Footnote: Within an hour of Snow’s response to me, Barletta’s office call to say they were getting calls telling them to turn on the nationally-televised White House briefing. In addition, Shawn Kelly of the Hazleton Standard-Speaker saw the briefing and did a story on it for his May 31st edition.