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Rep. Steve King to Former Police Chief and US Army Vet Art Venegas: Show Me Your Papers

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Yesterday, the House Judiciary Committee held yet another hearing on immigration. Titled, “Is Secure Communities Keeping Our Communities Secure?,” the hearing provided another opportunity for Republicans on the Committee to burnish their ugly anti-immigrant credentials. And, true to form, Rep. Steve King (R-IA), the leading anti-immigrant voice in the GOP, exhibited egregious behavior during his questioning of former Sacramento Police Chief Art Venegas, a naturalized U.S. citizen.

Huffington Post’s Elise Foley reported on the stunning interaction:

Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) took a moment on Wednesday to question a congressional witness about how he moved to the United States from Mexico, after the former police chief mentioned in his testimony that he is an immigrant. At the same hearing, Democrats on the House immigration subcommittee pushed for immigration officials to add safeguards against racial profiling in immigration enforcement.

“You said you’re likely the only immigrant on the panel,” King said to Arturo Venegas, who was testifying in front of the House immigration subcommittee. “I wonder if you could tell us how was it you were inspired to come to the United States.”

Venegas, a former Sacramento police chief, responded by telling King that his U.S.-born mother brought him to the country after he was born in Mexico. “Can you just tell us what year and what visa, then, Mr. Venegas?” King asked.

King never followed up with a reason for his questions, which came after Venegas testified about his experiences as Sacramento, Calif., police chief and his service on a task force to reform Secure Communities, a key immigration enforcement program.

One of our colleagues who attended the hearing, “To witness it was just surreal.”

We caught up with Venegas today to talk to him about his interaction with King. He told us:

It took me by surprise. Why did he even ask the question? What kind of a visa I came on? After serving as a police chief and in the Vietnam war, it was insulting to have my legality, my legitimacy questioned.  After my 40 years of public service, I never assumed I’d have to worry about that. I’ve probably been in public service longer than he has.  When he asked me what intention my parents and grandparents had in coming here, I wish I had said they were the same interests as his ancestors had.

King doesn’t even try to hide his anti-immigrant views. They were on full display yesterday. There’s a painful pattern here. Just this week, King authored a “Dear Colleague” letter, which outlined his opposition to HR 3012, Fairness for High Skilled Immigrants Act, a (rare) bipartisan immigration bill. The bill passed by an astounding margin of 389 -15. King, one of the 15 nay votes, wrote:

H.R 3012 moves our American culture in a direction away from assimilation and grows ethnic enclaves among the nationalities of the largest immigrant populations who are the slowest to assimilate. Open borders proponents of the bill have demanded and received an expansion of family-based visas which do nothing for skill shortages and instead consume visas that highly skilled immigrants could otherwise use….H.R. 3012 increases the number of immigrants coming to the United States from a handful of countries such as China, India, Mexico, and the Philippines and will exacerbate the problem of chain migration. 

“Ethnic enclaves” and “chain migration” are classic code words among the anti-immigrant crowd — and just what we’d expect from one of their leaders: Steve King. Again, the bill passed 389 – 15. 

Also, at yesterday’s Judiciary Committee hearing, King appeared to intimate that racial profiling is legal.  He asked the witnesses whether any federal law prohibits racial profiling, noting that Congress actually hasn’t enacted a law on this subject. Art Venegas reminded King about the Civil Rights Act and the US Constitution, specifically the 4th and 14th amendments.. 

Every time we think King has reached a new low, he outdoes himself. Attacking former police chief and vet Art Venegas was another embarrassing and despicable action from the GOP’s leading messenger on immigration.

Cross-posted at Daily Kos.