Tomorrow, House Republicans are gathering together for a closed-door, no-press meeting on immigration, where it is fully expected that anti-immigrant zealots like Steve King will try to rant the captive audience into opposing immigration reform.
We’d like to be a fly on that wall, but it’s probably not even necessary because King and his cohorts have for months been delivering the same old anti-immigrant rant. That means it’s fairly predictable what the opponents of immigration reform are going to say–and who their spokesmen saying it are going to be. What we don’t know is whether Republicans who support immigration reform, and recognize the many reasons why the GOP should pass legislation with a path to citizenship this year, will also speak up. But in terms of those who will rail against and castigate immigration reform tomorrow, here are some of the most likely:
- Steve King (R-IA)
- Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA)
- Lou Barletta (R-PA)
- Louie Gohmert (R-TX)
- Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI)
- Mo Brooks (R-AL)
- Lamar Smith (R-TX)
When it comes to immigrants and immigration, this is not a cheerful crowd. And yet these are the guys Republicans are listening to.
Steve King (R-IA) would handily win the award for most anti-immigrant member of Congress, having compared immigrants to dogs and cattle, among other things. Last month he submitted an amendment to an appropriations bill that would effectively kill President Obama’s deferred action (DACA) program and lead to the deportation of DREAMers. The amendment was passed on the same day a Latino Decisions poll found that 72% of Latino voters approved of the way Democrats are handling immigration reform, while just 26% can say the same thing for Republicans.
Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) is most recently famous for verbally attacking a DREAMer who visited his office to make her case for immigration reform. When she told him she was undocumented, he told her he “hates illegals” and said ominously “now I know where you live.” (PS. He really doesn’t like it when immigration reform advocates tweet at him.)
When we first wrote about now-sophomore Congressman Lou Barletta (R-PA), it was to note his involvement in a CPAC panel where Tom Tancredo talked about the “garbage” that is multiculturalism and audience members asked if various ethnic groups could just live separately. More recently, Barletta has been out making the case that immigration reform will only lead to more Democratic voters, because “The majority that are here illegally are low-skilled or may not even have a high school diploma. The Republican Party is not going to compete over who can give more social programs out.” He’s also said that immigrants were turning America into a “sinking ship.”
Louie Gohmert (R-TX) is widely known (and derided) for coming up with the concept of “terror babies” to label his irrational fear that terrorists are sending pregnant women to our shores to spawn US citizen-America haters. He also thinks that radical Islamists come into the US by crossing the border with “Hispanic-sounding names.”
Jim Sensenbrenner’s (R-WI) name has for years been associated with extremely harsh and incredibly punitive immigration measures that would criminalize and mass-deport immigrants. It was Sensenbrenner’s 2005 anti-immigrant bill that drove millions of immigrants to demonstrate in the streets against his attack on their way of life and sealed his Party’s anti-immigrant brand image in the minds of Latino voters.
Mo Brooks (R-AL), like his home-state Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL), supports Alabama’s self-deportation law HB 56, which should be enough of a case against him. But he’s also on the record saying that he “will do anything short of shooting” immigrants in order to resolve the immigration issue. “Anything that is lawful, it needs to be done.” Somehow we’re guessing that doesn’t include supporting immigration reform with a path to citizenship.
Lamar Smith (R-TX) has been more muted on immigration than he used to be since he left the House Judiciary Committee to chair the Committee on Science, Space, and Technology. But when he led the Judiciary Committee, he pushed efforts to pass enforcement-only bills like mandatory E-Verify and attempts to kill the diversity visa. He also presided over hearings that likened immigration detention to a “holiday,” insulted a former US Army vet when Steve King asked him for his papers, and tried to pit immigrants against native-born workers. And, he was the intellectual author of the 1996 immigration laws that made an already broken immigration system even more broken.
It’s likely to be a long day for more open-minded Republicans tomorrow. King, Smith, and their cohorts have long championed the “attrition through enforcement” / “self-deportation” strategy that doomed Mitt Romney. And now they’re determined to do the same for the future of the GOP. Is this who Speaker John Boehner is listening to?