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New on the House Immigration Subcommittee: Hardliner Rep. Ken Buck (R-CO)

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The new House Immigration Subcommittee assignments are out, and its Republican members for the 114th Congress will include Chairman Trey Gowdy (SC), Raul Labrador (ID), Lamar Smith (TX), Steve King (IA), Ken Buck (CO), John Ratcliffe (TX), and Dave Trott (MI).

We’re likely to get around to all the newcomers in time, but today’s profile is about Colorado’s Ken Buck, the freshman member of Congress who lost his bid to unseat Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO) in 2010.

Buck is the kind of anti-immigrant hardliner likely to get along well with subcommittee colleagues like Steve King and Lamar Smith.  He used to be the Weld County District Attorney, and in 2006 orchestrated an immigration raid on the JBS Swift Greeley Beef Plant, which at the time became the largest workplace raid in US history.  A “heavily armed fleet” of ICE officers arrived in riot gear and departed with 265 immigrant workers, a move which tore apart families and sparked a heated debate in the city.  The Republican mayor denounced the heavy-handed tactics, while one Latino activist told The Nation’s that “this has been our Katrina.”

That’s not the only thing Buck is known for.  Two years after the beef plant, he organized a highly-publicized raid of a tax office for Latino immigrants, seizing thousands of confidential tax returns and arresting dozens of suspected undocumented immigrants.  The whole thing was later deemed unconstitutional and Weld County spent $150,000 in legal fees defending Buck’s decisions.  Buck has also said things like, “In Weld County, we know the difference between an illegal and a United States citizen”; he’s supported Arizona’s anti-immigrant SB 1070 law; and he suggested changing the constitution so as to deny birthright citizenship to the children of immigrants.

With those kinds of hardliner positions, it’s no wonder Buck lost his 2010 Senate race in a state where the Latino vote is only growing in influence.  But now Buck is in the House, and one of his legislative priorities is, apparently, immigration.  As he said recently: “I want to roll up my sleeves and work hard on the immigration issue and find the middle ground.”

Of course, there’s the issue of what Buck considers “middle ground.”  According to the Denver Post, he wants to pursue a piecemeal strategy that would focus initially on a guest-worker program.  Such an approach could mean indefinite more years of immigrants waiting in the shadows and being separated from their families by deportation.

But Buck doesn’t view that as his problem.  As he told the Post, “I don’t owe people who are here illegally anything.”