During a meeting today with constituents in Rock Rapids, Iowa, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA)—one of the chief opponents of the Senate immigration bill—conceded that the legislation is not amnesty.
In response to a constituent’s question—“Do you consider the Senate immigration bill amnesty?”—Grassley replied, “I don’t use that word. [The Senate bill] is a little bit different than what we did in 1986. I would call the immigration bill in 1986 amnesty.”
Grassley went on to explain the flaws in the 1986 bill and its inadequate provisions for border security. In comparison, the Senate bill as written by the Gang of 8 earlier this year contained clauses that required strict border security before legalization could begin. And that was before the Corker-Hoeven amendment was added to the bill, and nearly $40 billion more in funds for immigration enforcement was attached.
Rock Rapids is located deep in Steve King’s congressional district, one of the most conservative parts of Iowa. But even there, 65% of likely voters–King’s own constituents–support a pathway to citizenship. While anti-immigrant blowhards like Steve King continue to rail against all immigration reform as “amnesty,” Grassley’s insistence that the Senate bill is not that puts him closer to immigration reform supporters like Jeff Flake and John McCain, who said just yesterday that the Senate bill’s 13-year wait and strict penalties precludes the legislation from being amnesty.
As Grassley himself said today, “Putting conditions ahead of legalization”—which is what the Senate bill does, via onerous requirements like a 13-year-wait, the payment of back taxes, learning English, and other provisions—“would preempt the use of the word amnesty.”
Grassley also said that House Republicans do not intend to kill immigration reform, but rather to pass bills that increase border security. With at least 24 House Republicans and 200 House Democrats supporting comprehensive immigration reform with a path to citizenship, advocates this fall will be mobilizing harder than ever to ensure that real immigration reform–one that includes not just border security but a path to citizenship–becomes a reality.
Watch the video with Sen. Grassley below: