WASHINGTON — A group of Republican House members led by Iowa Rep. Steve King spoke forcefully in opposition to a mass legalization before first solving the problem of illegal immigration at an event with reporters Thursday.
“We held our powder dry but decided to come forward now because we are seeing the inertia [of immigration reform] and we are concerned about having this wash over us and not have the opportunity for constitutional conservatives in this country and in this Congress to have their voice heard,” King explained.
Pennsylvania Rep. Lou Barletta stressed that the conversation should be about strengthening the borders, not a pathway to citizenship.
“As this issue comes to the forefront here it is interesting that there is any talk at all about a pathway to citizenship. As soon as I hear that I think political — we would not be talking about any type of pathway to citizenship if we were seriously about illegal immigration,” he said, referencing President Ronald Reagan’s 1986 amnesty.
“We’re offering amnesty at a time when we know our borders aren’t secure. And just today, as I said, you have now encouraged people to come here illegally. We’ve given a green light to people all over the world to come to the United States and steal jobs away from the American people when 22 million Americans are out of work,” he added. “When the legal immigrants who are starting here are now going to have to compete for jobs with millions more.”
Alabama Republican Rep. Mo Brooks said that the immigration system should serve Americans and stressed that in terms of immigration, America “is the most compassionate nation in history when it comes to allowing foreigners to become citizens of our country.”
“I want to emphasize the culture that we have in America, that we welcome immigration,” he said, explaining the issue is illegal immigration.
“We have to make a choice: Are we going to have laws, or not have laws? If we are not going to have open borders then that means we have to have laws that restrict who can come and who cannot come in. And we have to enforce those laws,” Brooks said, explaining that it is only a small percentage of people “who have chosen to disregard our laws as their first act on American soil.”
He added that with so many people wishing to come to America, the country should focus on accepting the most valuable and productive people.
“I urge that we get behind an immigration policy that focuses on bringing to America those who are clearly going to be on the productive side of our economy, less likely to be on the consumptive side of our economy,” he said, adding that illegal immigrants contribute to keeping wages low and Americans out of work.