This Saturday, leading Republican presidential contenders will travel to Iowa to attend anti-immigrant Rep. Steve King’s “Freedom Summit.” As the Des Moines Register previews, the event is “already pegged by the campaign-industrial complex as the kickoff to Iowa’s first-in-the-nation presidential caucuses.” As an earlier Register piece characterized, King is aiming to use the event “to extend [his] footprint as kingmaker.”
Immigration is at the top of the list of issues that King is seeking to influence. Last week, fresh out of the gates in the new Congress, House Republican leaders advanced legislation straight from the top of King’s anti-immigrant wish list, advancing proposals to overturn last November’s executive action, end the DACA program for DREAMers, and maximize deportations for all undocumented immigrants.
Of course, when it comes to King, he is as offensive and outspoken on the issue as he is influential within the Republican caucus. Ahead of last night’s State of the Union address, King decried that a Dreamer from Texas named Ana Zamora was a guest in the First Lady’s box. As Politico wrote:
“Congressman Steve King (R-Iowa) railed against President Obama via Twitter only hours before this Tuesday’s State of the Union speech, referring to an undocumented immigrant scheduled to sit with the first lady during the speech as ‘a deportable.’
‘#Obama perverts ‘prosecutorial discretion’ by inviting a deportable to sit in place of honor at #SOTU w/1st Lady,’ King wrote.”
Given Rep. King’s latest comments, his ongoing influence in driving the congressional immigration agenda, and his success in recruiting leading GOP presidential contenders to this weekend’s Iowa event, it’s only fair that the summit attendees start answering specific question on immigration.
According to Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America’s Voice:
Steve King is calling the Republican shots on immigration and anyone looking to curry favor with him by attending this weekend’s Iowa summit should have to answer whether they share King’s views and policy agenda on immigration. For starters, do the candidates for President believe Ana Zamora, a college student who came to the United States as an infant, is a ‘deportable’? Should Ana and her parents, who have lived in America for some twenty years, be put at the head of the deportation line, as last week’s House Republican votes would do? What is their answer to the question, ‘what to do with 11 million undocumented immigrants settled in America?’
Avoiding immigration answers or pulling a Rand Paul and fleeing from the scene of tough questions won’t do the trick. Any Republican contender who kisses Steve King’s ring by attending his event this Saturday should have to answer the question of whether they stand with him on immigration policy. After all, almost all of the House Republicans already do.