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As the House Judiciary Committee holds a full immigration hearing tomorrow, we wanted to highlight a few of the most anti-immigrant hardliners on the Committee and shine a light on their most notorious misdeeds. At a time when Republicans realize that they must do better with Latino voters and the issue of immigration, are nativists like the ones below still the people being allowed to run the show? Here’s a rundown of what the most zealous anti-immigrant extremists on the Judiciary Committee are known for:
Rep. Steve King (R-IA)
King is one of the most strident anti-immigrant voices in Congress: he has compared immigrants to dogs and then said it was a “compliment,” compared immigrants to cattle that we should keep out with an electrified fence, said he would sue President Obama to stop his DREAMer deferred action program, called immigration a “slow motion Holocaust,” claimed that immigrants could be spotted by their shoes, and said that Latinos vote Democrat because Democrats will give them “a great big check.” King even went so far as to build a model of a border fence on the House floor back in 2007. NOT sure “went do far” is best phrase — this isn’t his most offensive act.
And that’s just the immigration stuff. King has also recently made headlines for defending Rep. Todd “Legitimate Rape” Akin (R-MO) and claiming that Hurricane Sandy relief money would just go toward “Gucci bags.” King is also famous for supporting dog-fighting, refusing to answer whether birth control should be legal, and expressing birtherist and secessionist tendencies.
Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX)
Last year was a bad year for Lamar Smith, the former chairman of the House Judiciary Committee. His STEM Jobs Act, which is designed to kill the diversity visa, was introduced twice but went nowhere in the House; his SOPA bill was crushed after vehement opposition from Google, Wikipiedia, Facebook, etc., introduced a whole new universe of people to Lamar Smith; and his party lost the November election, taking a drubbing from Latino voters in part due to Smith’s anti-immigrant maneuvering of the Judiciary Committee. The last legislative session also saw the farewell of Rep. Elton Gallegly (R-CA), former chairman of the House Immigration Subcommittee and Smith and King’s colleague-in-crime against immigrants and immigration reform.
Plenty more can be said about Smith. He’s an advocate of “attrition through enforcement,” now more famously known as “self deportation”; supports English-only legislation and changing the constitution so as to eliminate birthright citizenship; held Congressional hearings claiming that he wanted to protect American minorities from immigrants despite receiving rock-bottom report cards from civil rights organizations; and recently panned last week’s immigration proposals from President Obama and a group of Senators as “amnesty” that “rewards lawbreakers.”
Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI)
Back in 2005, Rep. Sensenbrenner sponsored an anti-immigrant bill so extreme that his name today remains synonymous with ultra-right-wing nativism. Officially known as HB 4437, it was designed to block passage bipartisan immigration bills under consideration in the Senate and “re-elect” Republicans to the House in 2006 (though that didn’t out so well) LINK to my oped on Bilbray et al from Jan and would have erected a 700-mile long border fence, made E-Verify mandatory, turned immigrants and anyone who assisted them into felons, and dramatically reduced immigrant access to essential services. It was the threat of the Sensenbrenner bill that brought more than 1 million immigrants and their allies across the US onto the streets in the spring of 2006, marching and demonstrating on the need for immigration reform.
Last week, in response to the latest immigration reform developments, Sensenbrenner put out a statement saying that “extending amnesty to those who came here illegally or overstayed their visas is dangerous waters. We are a nation of laws, and I will evaluate any proposal through that matrix.”
Rep. Louis Gohmert (R-TX)
Even for this list, Rep. Louie Gohmert is out there. His particular trademark is aligning overblown fears of undocumented immigration with overblown fears of terrorism, resulting most notably in his personal contribution to the English language, “terror babies.” Alleging that pregnant women from the Middle East made it a habit to come to the US to have their babies (his evidence was that he’d heard a lady on a plane speaking about it) Gohmert once said, “We’re bringing them over here on tourist visas, some illegally, letting them be born here and saying this is an American citizen. So come back in 20, 25 years when you’re ready to blow us up.”
There’s so much more: Gohmert has claimed that the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” would be a threat to America’s existence, has compared same-sex relationships to bestiality and necrophilia, wanted to impeach Elena Kagan for last year’s Supreme Court ruling on health care, said the Aurora shooting would not have happened if Americans still feared God, and implied that President Obama was being advised by the Muslim Brotherhood.
In short, the Republican members of the House Judiciary Committee are not exactly paragons of wisdom and serenity. But for the Republicans’ sake, we hope these Republicans are not the ones running the show.