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Greg Sargent: On Immigration, the GOP is Steve King's Party

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A number of House and Senate Democrats have been attacking the House GOP for their obstruction of immigration reform and appeasement of Steve King recently, and today, Steve King rose to the bait.  In a floor speech lifted up by Greg Sargent at the Washington Post, King essentially bear-hugged his GOP caucus and explained that their position on immigration is no different from his.

Watch King’s speech below:

This is a problem for the GOP though, since proximity to King is completely antithetical to the idea of winning over Latino voters or regaining the White House in 2016 or beyond.  If only House Republicans had done something — like, say, pass immigration reform — to show Latino voters that King isn’t in charge.  If only they hadn’t taken multiple votes to deport DREAMers, a position King champions.

As Greg Sargent reminds us, self-deportation wasn’t a fringe position within the GOP — and even today, their true policy preferences imply mass deportation:

In an important sense, King is absolutely right in suggesting that his posture on this issue is perfectly at home in today’s GOP. While most House Republicans don’t share King’s outsized views of immigrants (remember the cantaloupe-calved drug-hauling DREAMers?), for all practical purposes, the position of many Republicans right now is that the only acceptable policy response to the immigration crisis is maximum deportations from the interior.

The 2012 Republican Party platform endorsed self-deportation, as did the 2012 GOP presidential nominee. This year House Republicans rolled out principles that include legal status for the 11 million. That was a significant philosophical step forward. But nothing has moved since 2012 in practical terms. House Republicans have not proposed or voted on any measures that would accomplish any sort of legal status for the 11 million — even though GOP leaders themselves have said the 11 million must be addressed.

House Republicans may hem and haw about the way Steve King expresses his policy preferences on immigration.  But their actions move in lockstep with King — a 2013 American Bridge report even found that House Republicans vote with King 90% of the time on immigration.  And the fact that something as small as the ENLIST Act was shut down this week is continued proof that House Republicans are allowing King to run the show.  As Sargent continues:

House Republicans are not even prepared to say whether there will be a vote on the Enlist Act, which would allow DREAMers to gain legal permanent residence by serving in the military — which King compared to handing out candy at a parade. The Enlist Act, right now, represents the absolute outer limit of the GOP makeover, and even that may not get a vote. By contrast, Steve King’s proposal to deport the DREAMers did get a House vote.

It’s quaint to go back to it now, but that RNC autopsy into what went wrong in 2012 pointedly noteed that Republicans must embrace immigration reform, because “If Hispanics think we do not want them here, they will close their ears to our policies.” The autopsy added that if Republicans don’t embrace reform, “our party’s appeal will continue to shrink to its core constituencies only.”

Over a year after that autopsy, Steve King helpfully reminded us that on this issue, the GOP remains Steve King’s party.

Read the full Greg Sargent piece here.