Trump's handpicked Senate candidate defends ripping families apart


Even some Republicans object to Trump's policy of ripping children away from their families — but not Pennsylvania Senate nominee Lou Barletta. He's just fine with it.

The Trump administration's cruel policy of taking immigrant children from their parents has drawn tremendous public outrage. But one person is on board: Pennsylvania Republican Senate candidate Lou Barletta.

The congressman challenging Democratic incumbent Sen. Bob Casey made his position clear in an interview with CBS Pittsburgh's political editor Jon Delano on Friday.

"When you commit a criminal offense, children, you will be separated during the custody," said Barletta. "I don't think we should have separate laws for people who come in the country illegally and other laws for American citizens."

He added, "Remember, 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."

As a fervent Trump supporter, it's not surprising that Barletta is now defending Trump's abhorrent policy of separating families. Barletta co-chaired the Trump campaign in Pennsylvania and is thought by some to have been Trump's handpicked choice for Senate. The Philadelphia Inquirer noted in May that "few people saw U.S. Rep. Lou Barletta as a potential Senate candidate … then Donald Trump happened."

Barletta also has his own long record of extreme anti-immigration views.

As mayor of Hazelton in 2006, he held a rally where he claimed a bipartisan immigration bill being debated at the time would allow murders, rapists, thieves, and terrorists to stay in the country.

In Congress, he has supported scaling back birthright citizenship and making it harder for immigrants to sponsor family members. Last year, he pushed a bill to strip federal funding from "sanctuary cities," a misguided but frequent threat from Trump. And he only agreed to vote for the GOP Obamacare repeal bill after the House promised a vote on his bill to explicitly deny health tax credits to undocumented immigrants.

Barletta also sits on an advisory board for the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), which the Southern Poverty Law Center designates a hate group because of its ties to white supremacist and eugenicist activists. He refused calls to sever ties with the group in the wake of last year's neo-Nazi demonstrations in Charlottesville, saying he was "proud" to be on its board.

It would be easy to write off Barletta, as he is only one candidate and his prospects of winning look dismal. But the broader GOP has offered barely any resistance to Trump's family separation regime.

While a few GOP lawmakers have halfheartedly criticized the policy, not one Republican has signed on to Democrats' Keep Families Together Act, which would prohibit federal officials from removing children from a parent or legal guardian unless it is in the interest of their safety.

It shouldn't be difficult for anyone, regardless of party, to condemn the horrific practice of taking thousands of children from their families. But Trump loyalist Barletta can't even do that, so instead, he's defending the administration's terrible policy.