WILKES-BARRE — U.S. Rep. Lou Barletta this week applauded the launch of an office within the Department of Homeland Security, which will provide services to people who have been victims of crimes committed by people in the country illegally.
The Victims of Immigration Crime Engagement Office, which will also be know as VOICE, was established by President Donald J. Trump’s executive order of Jan. 25, which dealt with enforcing immigration laws in the country. That executive order included provisions cutting off certain federal grant funding to sanctuary cities, or jurisdictions which refuse to cooperate with federal immigration officials or obey immigration law.
“One of the main reasons I ran for Congress was my frustration with the federal government’s refusal to enforce our existing immigration laws,” Barletta said. “When I was mayor, Hazleton was overrun by illegal immigrants who brought with them gangs, drugs, identify theft, fraud and other crimes.”
Barletta said he “always heard” that compassion should be shown for people who come to America illegally.
“But no one speaks up for the victims of these crimes,” he said. “I had to sit with people who lost loved ones who were victims, and I have compassion for them. I commend the Trump Administration for opening the VOICE office and standing up for victims and their families.”
The VOICE office will be housed under the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency. Barletta said VOICE seeks to use a victim-centered approach to support victims and their families, promote awareness of available services to crime victims, and build collaborative partnerships with community stakeholders assisting victims.
He said ICE has established a toll-free hotline to triage calls and provide victims with support. The number is 1-855-48-VOICE or 1-855-488-6423.
Barletta said another section of the same executive order cut off federal grants to sanctuary cities — an issue long championed by the congressman. A federal district court judge in San Francisco recently issued a ruling temporarily blocking this portion of the executive order. However, Barletta said the ruling does not affect the administration’s ability to enforce existing laws, including those that withhold certain federal grant funding to sanctuary cities, nor does it impact the government’s ability to designate jurisdictions as “sanctuaries” or develop regulations governing such jurisdictions.
Barletta said he has authored legislation that would go even farther than the president’s executive orders — the Mobilizing Against Sanctuary Cities Act, H.R. 83, which would stop all federal funds from flowing to states or localities that resist or ban enforcement of federal immigration laws, or flatly refuse to cooperate with immigration officials.
State encourages Pa.
residents to request
absentee ballots early
Secretary of State Pedro A. Cortés this week encouraged Pennsylvanians to submit requests for primary election absentee ballots before the May 9 deadline.
Under the state election code, applications for absentee ballots must be submitted no later than one week before Election Day. For this year’s May 16 primary election, the deadline falls on May 9. Absentee voters must return their voted ballot to their county election office by May 12.
“The statutory deadlines have become increasingly unrealistic due to changes in service by the U.S. Postal Service,” Secretary Cortés said. “Anyone who is planning to return the completed absentee ballot by mail risks missing the deadline.”
Completed ballots must be received in county elections offices by 5 p.m. the Friday before the election. A timely postmark is not sufficient.
Absentee ballots may be cast by deployed members of the military, Pennsylvania students attending out-of-state colleges or universities, individuals with illnesses or disabilities, and individuals who will be away from their municipality on business on Election Day. Comprehensive information about absentee ballots, including a downloadable request form, can be found at the Department of State’s website votesPA.com.
Applicants will be asked to supply basic voter registration information and to specify a reason for applying to vote absentee.
Pennsylvanians applying for an absentee ballot must provide their driver’s license or PennDOT ID number. If they do not have a driver’s license or PennDOT ID, they must give the last four digits of their Social Security number. If a voter has neither, he or she must present a copy of an acceptable photo ID. A list of approved alternative types of identification is available at votesPA.com.
Once an absentee ballot has been completed, voters may return them by mail or deliver them in person to county election offices.
An absentee voter can designate someone else to deliver the absentee application and ballot if he or she is physically unable to do so. Certification of Designated Agent forms are also available online.
For additional information, call 1-877-VOTESPA (1-877-868-3772) or visit votesPA.com.
Bill would up penalty
for illegally setting
In an effort to better protect dogs and other domestic animals, state Rep. Gerald Mullery this week introduced legislation that would increase the penalty for illegally setting body-gripping traps.
State law requires all body-gripping traps to be set inside an established watercourse, waterway, marsh, pond or dam. Unfortunately, body-gripping traps are often illegally placed outside these water locations, inadvertently luring dogs and other domestic animals, which are often seriously injured or killed by the traps, according to Mullery, D-Newport Township.
“The frequency and severity of this problem prompted the Pennsylvania Game Commission to restrict the size of openings for these traps in an effort to reduce the number of domestic animals being killed or injured by them. Even with this size restriction, I believe it is necessary to strengthen the penalty for those who place these traps in unapproved and illegal locations,” said Mullery.
A violation of the current law is punishable by a fine of up to $200. House Bill 1292 would raise that penalty to a fine of up to $1,500 and up to three months in prison.
The Pennsylvania Game Commission and the Pennsylvania Trappers Association supported the bill when Mullery introduced it last legislative session, although it did not receive a vote by the House Game and Fisheries Committee.