As anti-immigrant extremist Rep. Steve King (R-IA) continues his media tour to defend his infamous comparison of DREAMers to drug smugglers, he has company – another high-profile Republican has joined Rep. King in comparing immigrants to animals.
The Republican candidate in the high-profile 2013 Virginia gubernatorial race, Ken Cuccinelli, said in 2012 that Steve King was one of his “very favorite congressmen.” More disturbingly, Cuccinelli also has joined King as notable Republicans with a history of comparing immigrants to animals. The Huffington Post reports today that while appearing on a conservative radio show in 2012, Cuccinelli went on a rant about District of Columbia pest control policies and said:
They have to relocate the rats. And, not only that, that’s actually not the worst part, they cannot break up the families of the rats! So, anyway, it is worse than our immigration policy…You can’t break up rat families. Or raccoons, and all the rest, and you can’t even kill ’em. Its unbelievable.
On the heels of King adding new fuel to the media firestorm each day, Cuccinelli’s remarks are another reminder of the problems to the Republican efforts to present a new face on immigration to the public. Yet what makes the GOP’s immigration re-brand especially difficult is the way that House Republican leaders like Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) remain content to slow-walk reform and deny a vote on legislation including a path to citizenship – an approach that the majority of the House and the majority of the public already support.
In fact, Speaker Boehner seems intent to use the King comment controversy as an excuse for continued legislative inaction and throwing up his hands – as if he doesn’t have the power to do anything about it. Yesterday, Speaker Boehner noted in response to Rep. King’s comments and immigration reform prospects, “It does make it more difficult, but I’m going to continue to work with members who want to get a solution, as opposed to those who want to do nothing.” As Steve Benen wrote on MSNBC.com:
I’m glad the Speaker of the House sees Steve King’s bigotry as ‘hateful’ and ‘ignorant,’ but I’d even more glad if the Speaker of the House weren’t letting Steve King win the policy fight…If John Boehner and the House Republican leadership ignored Steve King’s demands and passed comprehensive immigration reform, the ‘problem’ posed by the unhinged Iowan would, in fact, be solved.
Said Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America’s Voice:
Instead of making reform ‘more difficult,’ King’s comments are a reminder for why Republicans need to move forward and pass reform with a path to citizenship this year. The longer that King and Cuccinelli-type comments are allowed to hang out there, and the longer Republicans delay reform, the more the Republican Party becomes defined by the former and not the latter.
The anti-immigrant rhetoric, combined with inaction on immigration reform, explains why Latino midterm voters in two dozen GOP-held battleground districts give a 70% disapproval rating on the Republicans’ handling of immigration issues, per a new Latino Decisions poll. Additionally, the poll finds that many Latino voters are willing to give Republicans a second chance if they reject the King approach and move forward on real reform: 62% of Latino voters have voted Republican at some point in their lives; 50% would be more likely to support a GOP House candidate in their district if they take a leadership role in passing immigration reform with a pathway to citizenship, even if they disagree on other issues; and 62% would feel more favorable towards Republicans in Congress if Speaker Boehner allowed a bipartisan vote on immigration reform.
Steve King is being Steve King – a misguided extremist with a long history of hateful rhetoric about immigrants. But Republican leadership have allowed him to be the King of the House when it comes to charting immigration policy. They voted in favor of the King amendment that would de-fund the DREAMer deferred action program. They voted against the DREAM Act in 2010. They embraced policies that amount to Mitt Romney’s infamous ‘self-deportation’ strategy. It’s time to break from this past and move forward to reform. This week’s controversy is not an argument against reform, it should be heard as an urgent call to get it done.