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Candidates Speak Out on ‘Ghost Flights’ of Illegals into PA

The specter of charter planes landing in the dead of night at Wilkes-Barre Scranton International Airport carrying unaccompanied illegal immigrant minors has become a campaign issue for the GOP.

Republican Lou Barletta, a former mayor and congressman now running for governor in 2022, called out Democrats Gov. Tom Wolf and Attorney General Josh Shapiro for their lack of action on the issue. Barletta, a longtime opponent of illegal immigration, told the Delaware Valley Journal he would bus illegal aliens to President Joe Biden’s home state of Delaware if the federal government continued to ship them to the Keystone State. And he raised the issue of the ghost flights in a DVJournal podcast.

“We can’t let the federal government just drop people off in this country in the middle of the night without any background on who they are or what their health and COVID status is. This nonsense stops when I’m governor,” Barletta said on Facebook.

Shapiro, a Democrat, is also running to replace the term-limited Wolf. Shapiro’s spokeswoman deferred a request for comment to the federal Health & Human Services Department, which did not immediately respond.

“It has been confirmed that there have been four clandestine charter flights of illegal immigrants from El Paso, Texas to northeast Pennsylvania: On December 11, December 17, and twice on Christmas night. Further flights are expected on December 30 and 31,” Barletta said on his campaign website.

He also sent a letter to Wolf and Shapiro concerning the flights.

“While the federal Department of Health and Human Services claims that minors on the flights have been given ‘catch-up’ vaccines for a variety of diseases, it is difficult to comprehend how that could be the case. Under Pennsylvania law, children are required to be immunized against many diseases, and some require multiple doses spread out over long periods of time,” Barletta said.

“I asked Gov. Wolf, did he know about this? Were they vaccinated?” Barletta said during a Fox News appearance last week. “And I’m not only talking about COVID. Pennsylvania law requires any minors, before they can go to school, to [be vaccinated for] polio, hepatitis, mumps, measles, chickenpox. Were criminal background checks done? And where were they going? Shouldn’t the people in those communities, those school districts, know? And there was no answer at all.”

Wolf spokesperson Elizabeth Rementer said the governor viewed it as a federal issue.

“As any elected official should know, immigration is a federal matter; instead of making this a political PR stunt, their questions are best directed to the federal government,” Rementer said. “That said, the administration sought further information from the federal Department of Health and Human Services. Had any of the elected officials sending letters/statements asked, they would have received the same information that we have from HHS.  Over recent weeks, unaccompanied children passed through the Wilkes-Barre airport en route to their final destination to be unified with their parents or vetted sponsor. These were not ICE flights as the legislators have claimed.”

Rementer also claimed the children being brought to the state are vaccinated and those with symptoms must quarantine.

“While traveling, unaccompanied children are required to wear masks and follow all federal guidelines for safe air travel,” said Rementer.

Jessica Vaughan of the Center for Immigration Studies, said, “This conversation gets right to the heart of the border problem – it is the states that have to bear the fiscal and security burden of the Biden administration’s policy to allow unlimited entry of families and kids crossing the border illegally. The states and localities where the migrants are settling are not consulted, or even informed, about who is arriving, yet they will have to provide education, social services, jobs and housing for them indefinitely, not to mention deal with the few among the migrants who turn out to be criminals. Biden is doing this in the dead of night because he can’t defend the policy in the light of day.”

Republicans aren’t letting the issue go.

Former U.S. Attorney Bill McSwain, also a GOP candidate for governor, said he would stop the flights if he were governor.

“We are a nation of laws. This requires our government leaders to uphold the rule of law – and not do things like transport illegal immigrants into Pennsylvania in the dead of night,” McSwain said in a statement. “These ‘ghost flights’ are a slap in the face to law-abiding Pennsylvanians and yet another example of Joe Biden’s willingness to prioritize taxpayer-funded accommodation of lawbreakers over the safety of American citizens. The people of Pennsylvania deserve better than to be duped into receiving hundreds of unvetted illegal immigrants into their communities.”

State Sen. Doug Mastriano, (R-York) who is expected to announce his gubernatorial candidacy on Jan. 8, also sent Wolf a letter claiming flights with more than 100 illegal immigrants have landed in both Erie and Scranton. He asked if state funds were used for these immigrants and called upon the governor to stop the flights as well.

“Our own citizens have serious needs,” said Mastriano. “And it is irresponsible to divert any resources to those who are in the country illegally.”

Dave White, former Delaware County councilman and gubernatorial candidate, also weighed in. “Rather than conducting these flights with illegal immigrants under the cloak of darkness, Pennsylvanians deserve transparency. With spikes in crime and COVID-19 infections spreading, we cannot allow Joe Biden’s open border policies to spread to Pennsylvania. Unfortunately, Biden, Tom Wolf, and Josh Shapiro have embraced and rewarded lawlessness.”

Carla Sands, a Republican running for U.S. Senate, took to Facebook to express her concerns.

“Biden has left our borders wide open and now Pennsylvanians are paying the price. Four ghost flights packed with illegal immigrants landed in Scranton just a few days ago. This is Biden’s mess but it’s all part of his open borders agenda,” she said. Sands, a former ambassador under Trump, called on Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas to resign.

GOP Senate candidate Dr. Mehmet Oz weighed in on Facebook, as well. “Biden’s border crisis has turned every state into a border state & the effects of his disastrous, open-border policies have rippled across our country, sadly even into the Wilkes Barre-Scranton area. We need strong leaders who will secure our border.”

Meanwhile, Republican Senate candidate Kathy Barnette, a frequent Fox News commentator, posted a video on Facebook about the issue.

“We can have great sympathy and heart for those particular illegal aliens coming into our country who truly want a better chance in life,” said Barnette. But she noted, “We are a nation of laws. Right now we are blowing through the Constitution like a whale moves through a net.”

A spokesperson for the Department of Homeland Security did not respond to a request for comment for this article. However, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) told the Times-Tribune that it had not organized the flights.

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Lou Barletta Promises to Bus Illegal Immigrants to Delaware, President Biden’s Home State

If he becomes Pennsylvania governor, Lou Barletta says he will bus illegal immigrants to Delaware.

Barletta is taking a page out of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ playbook in saying he would send migrants that the federal government has been flying throughout the country to President Joe Biden’s home state.

The Florida governor recently told Fox News he was considering responding to the Biden administration’s policy of flying migrants from the U.S. southern border to states like his by sending them on to Biden’s home state.

“Our view is that if they’re going to be dumping, we want to be able to facilitate transfer to places like Delaware. And so we have $8 million in my new budget to be able to do that,” DeSantis said.

Barletta, 65, who is polling ahead of the other 14 or so candidates running for the GOP voters’ nod in the May 2022 primary, first made national headlines with a no-nonsense attitude toward illegal immigrants when he was mayor of Hazleton. He says he likes what DeSantis is doing.

“We’re a lot closer to Delaware than Florida, and it will cost us all lot less money to ship people from Philadelphia to Wilmington than it will for DeSantis to ship them from Fort Lauderdale,” Barletta told the Delaware Valley Journal podcast on Wednesday.

Barletta said that he has stayed true to his principles “his whole political career” and always did what he thinks is right, “even if it’s not politically popular.”

“When I was mayor of Hazleton, I was the first mayor in the country to stand up against the illegal immigration because it was affecting our city,” said Barletta.

It’s a matter of fairness to Barletta.

“How many millions of (legal) immigrants who are waiting, have waited, have gone through the process, have paid the price (to) bring their families here legally,” said Barletta. “And, you know, they’re watching people just cross the border and getting the same benefits…which is unfair. It’s a case of unfairness, but everybody should care.”

Barletta, who also served in Congress and ran for the Senate against Democrat Bob Casey, said that his experience in government, coupled with his background as a small business owner, has prepared him to be governor.

Barletta promised to get the state’s economy back on track.

“I would open up our economy.” Pennsylvania “was blessed with all this energy under our feet,” he said. The commonwealth has as much mineral wealth as “an entire country.”

“That’s how much energy we have that we could be exporting, but also using it to bring manufacturing here, building pipelines, which will put people to work, having all this gas under our feet and not building a pipeline is like being in college and having a keg of beer without a tap.”

Barletta would also cut taxes and regulations to bring more businesses here.

“Pennsylvania’s not business-friendly,” said Barletta. The state has “the second-highest business taxes in the country” and “our regulatory agencies are used as weapons to punish businesses right now. The DEP (Department of Environmental Protection) stands for don’t expect permits.”

Asked about the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) that Wolf is entering Pennsylvania into without the legislature’s agreement, Barletta said, “Day one, I’m repealing RGGI.”

“It’s ludicrous that we would be a state with all this opportunity here. And we would put ourselves in a consortium of other states that could care less because they don’t have it. They don’t have the energy…that we have and our country needs this energy. Look at the price of gas…Pennsylvania can be a leader and we will be a leader, and that’s going to mean a lot more jobs and a lot more opportunities.”

So far the only Democrat running for governor is Attorney General Josh Shapiro.

Meanwhile, many of the Republican gubernatorial candidates will be in Carlisle on Jan. 5 for their first debate, although Barletta will not attend any debates until after the qualifying period to be on the May primary ballot.

Among those also running: Montgomery County Commissioner Joe Gale; former U.S. Attorney Bill McSwain; Jason Richey, a Pittsburgh attorney; Charlie Gerow, a political strategist based in Harrisburg; Guy Ciarrocchi, who is on leave as president of the Chester County Chamber of Business and Industry; Dave White, a former Delaware County councilman and small business owner; Senate President Pro Tempore Jake Corman, who lives in Centre County; Melissa Hart, a lawyer and former congresswoman from Allegheny County; and Lancaster state Sen. Scott Martin, who also owns a small business. State Sen. Doug Mastriano of Franklin County, is also expected to run.

If he does, Mastriano may compete with Barletta for voters who support former President Donald Trump. Barletta was the first congressman to support Trump when the former billionaire businessman and TV star began his quest for office. Mastriano is a strong advocate of Trump’s contention that he lost to Biden in 2020 because of a rigged election.


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PODCAST: Lou Barletta Says He’s The Trump Guy PA Dems Can Love

In this edition of the Delaware Valley Journal podcast, former Congressman (and mayor of Hazelton, Pa.) Lou Barletta talks to News Editor Linda Stein about his race for governor and why he believes he’s the best candidate to take on Democratic A.G. Josh Shapiro next year.

Barletta makes the case that he’s got both the name ID and the ability to appeal to Democrats that the Republican Party needs to win the general election.

Hosted by Michael Graham.