Questions regarding undocumented immigrants and illegal immigration were at the forefront of U.S. Rep. Fred Keller’s (R-Pa.-12) recent “tele town hall” Tuesday.
Keller addressed concerns around recent reports that several federal planes containing undocumented immigrants landed in the Wilkes-Barre Scranton Scranton/Wilkes-Barre International Airport. Keller focused his consternation on the fact that many of the immigrants in question were unaccompanied minors that are at risk of being trafficked. Keller said that he and U.S. Rep. Dan Meuser (R-Pa.-9) have reached out to ICE, Health and Human Services, and the Border Patrol and are working toward accountability and ensuring the administration tracks where these relocated immigrants are placed after they arrive at the border.
A caller brought up a recent hostage situation in Texas involving a British national who had arrived in New York last month, asking “What are we doing not vetting these individuals?” Keller answered that he and several Republican colleagues travelled to the border and spoke with local law enforcement to determine what they need to combat immigration. Keller blamed the Biden Administration for stopping certain programs from the Trump Administration such as border wall construction on the recent surge in immigration numbers.
Keller lauded the Supreme Court’s recent decision striking down Biden’s mandate that businesses with more than 100 employees mandate COVID vaccination and repeatedly mentioned that government accountability and responsibility is a key tenet of his platform.
Keller also addressed several questions about infrastructure, particularly about funding for rural broadband expansion. A lack of reliable internet has long been an issue in rural areas such as Keller’s district. Keller replied, “There already is federal money out there that has been allocated towards this. It’s a matter of deployment.” In addition, Keller highlighted efforts by Bradford County Progress Authority and its “middle mile” program, which has been installing fiber optic cables to expand broadband access to more rural locations in the county by providing the base infrastructure to broadband providers.
“When we talk about infrastructure, we’re not just talking about roads and bridges and things you see. It’s things you don’t see like freshwater, water treatment, internet, and natural gas pipelines” Keller stated.
Looking forward, Keller said he and his Republican colleagues will focus on rebuilding the economy with an emphasis on harvesting minerals and “getting government out of the way” of private businesses. Keller also brought up his proposed legislation, the CHOICE Act, which would make federal PELL Grants available to students seeking two-year terms in colleges and short term occupational programs. The CHOICE Act has drawn support from both Republicans and Democrats. Another bipartisan legislation he mentioned was with U.S. Rep. Susan Wild (D-Pa.-7), the Nurses Care Act, to allow long-term care professionals to use hours of work accumulated during the COVID-19 pandemic toward their requirements for accreditation.
Keller closed thanking all participants for “giving me the opportunity to bring Pa.-12 values to Washington D.C.”