WASHINGTON -- Rep. Lou Barletta (R-Pa.) said Sunday that he cannot support providing a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants because he doesn't think President Barack Obama has any desire to enforce existing immigration laws. Barletta dismissed the record number of deportations already taking place.
"You wouldn't replace your carpet at home if you still had a hole in the roof," he said on ABC's "This Week." "We're talking about any time you start waving a carrot such as American citizenship without securing the borders, that number [of undocumented immigrants] that we have today I believe will double or triple."
Barletta has been an outspoken opponent of any immigration reform that involves citizenship. Last week, he insisted Republicans will not win over Latino voters by passing immigration reform because undocumented immigrants are, according to him, uneducated and therefore unlikely to support the GOP.
"I hope politics is not at the root of why we're rushing to pass a bill. Anyone who believes that they're going to win over the Latino vote is grossly mistaken," Barletta said, according to Lehigh Valley's Morning Call. "The majority that are here illegally are low-skilled or may not even have a high school diploma. The Republican Party is not going to compete over who can give more social programs out. They will become Democrats because of the social programs they'll depend on."
He did not make the same argument on Sunday, instead focusing on the idea that a pathway to citizenship would swell the undocumented population. "This is 1986 all over again," Barletta said, referring to a law signed by President Ronald Reagan that allowed some undocumented immigrants to become citizens but did not successfully curtail future unauthorized immigration.
Since then, deportations have also increased greatly, including under Obama. His administration deported more than 400,000 people in the 2012 fiscal year and is on track to deport many more in 2013.
However, the Obama administration also sued to block Arizona's controversial SB 1070 immigration law and has put in place policies that allow some undocumented immigrants to stay, which Barletta said Sunday discounts its deportation numbers.
"We can argue about that all day long," he said of Obama's immigration enforcement. "I don't know how anyone can argue that this administration is serious about enforcing our laws when they're suing the state of Arizona -- because the federal government has caused the problem and Arizona wants to defend itself."
A number of other Republicans have likewise accused the president of being weak on immigration enforcement as an argument against comprehensive immigration reform. A reform framework put out last week by a bipartisan "gang of eight" in the Senate attempted to address those concerns by tying green cards to stronger border security, granting undocumented immigrants only provisional status until certain border metrics are met.
But some Republicans were still skeptical. On Wednesday, Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) called Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), a member of the gang of eight, "amazingly naïve" to support such a framework.
"Look, I love and respect Marco," Vitter said on Laura Ingraham's radio show. "I just think he’s amazingly naïve on this issue. This is the same old formula we've dealt with before, including when it passed in 1986, and that is the promise of enforcement and immediate amnesty. And of course, the promises of enforcement never materialize. The amnesty happens immediately, the millisecond the bill is signed into law. And the same is true here."
Despite GOP opposition, Jorge Ramos, a Univision anchor and supporter of comprehensive immigration reform, said on "This Week" that he is more optimistic than ever before that reform can pass.
"I don't remember ever seeing the president and both parties rushing to beat the other to present an immigration proposal," Ramos said. "I haven't seen that. It's the most important immigration news in the last 30 years."