CHARLOTTE, NORTH CAROLINA—First term House Republican Robert Pittenger (R-NC) is running unopposed for another term representing North Carolina’s 9th District. At a town hall in suburban Charlotte Tuesday night, he told a small crowd of almost exclusively Caucasian constituents that he will do all he can to address the crisis of tens of thousands of unaccompanied minors arriving at the US/Mexico border.
When a constituent stood up and accused the freshman congressman of not doing enough to secure the border, Pittenger protested that he helped the House of Representatives pass a “very good bill” that would deport both the newly arrived child migrants as well as those commonly known as DREAMers who have been raised in the US. He faulted the Democratic-controlled Senate for refusing to take up that measure.
Pittenger then accused President Obama of “exploiting” and “abusing” a 2008 anti-trafficking law that protects children from Central America from being deported without due process. The President himself considered waiving or amending this law earlier this summer in order to speed deportations, but backed down after an outcry from the international law and human rights community.
When ThinkProgress asked Pittenger if these deportations should continue in the light of reports that some of the children have been killed upon return, he said they should.
“It’s the most egregious, awful crime and a pity, what has happened to these young children,” he told ThinkProgress. “But do you want to open up America’s doors to the entire world? We can’t handle the healthcare and education today for our own population! We have to be sensible about what we our system can manage. So you put them on planes and you send them back.”
Responding to another question from a constituent, Pittenger then claimed that Democrats are at fault for Congress’ failure to pass comprehensive immigration reform because of their insistence on a path to citizenship for some undocumented people.
“I speak to Hispanic radio and newspapers and they’re not talking about that. It’s not even on their mind,” he said. “They want to be here legally and come out of the shadows and work, but I don’t hear them demanding US citizenship. But [Democrats] want to use that and embrace these people for their political agenda.”
A survey conducted by the Pew Research Center in 2012 found that the vast majority of Hispanic immigrants—more than 90 percent of both those with and without legal status—do aspire to become US citizens.
North Carolina’s stance on the current immigration crisis has made the news in recent weeks. Surry County, just a few hours north of Charlotte, passed a resolution this week to keep unaccompanied migrant children out of their region. Among other concerns they cited the already-debunked fear that the children are carrying communicable diseases. Surry joins two other North Carolina counties, Rowan and Brunswick, in passing such a resolution. But other counties, including the city of Charlotte, are making preparations to welcome any children placed with family members. More than 1,400 have already arrived in the state.