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.
Texas Republican Rep. Louie Gohmert added that lawmakers must ensure that new immigrants do not overwhelm the country.
“If we do this right and show people we want immigration — we need immigration — but we need it to be done lawfully and we need it to protect the country and those who are here legally, and do it in an orderly fashion,” he said, “And if we then can show people who are coming in legally that we believe the same core values that you do, you ought to be part of our [Republican] Party. But we are going to have to show them we will keep our word, unlike the current administration.”
Minnesota Republican Rep. Michele Bachmann pointed out that her husband is a first-generation immigrant and explained that Americans at the lowest rung of the economic ladder are hurt the most by illegal immigration.
“They have been a net plus to this country,” she said of her husband and his family, “just like generations of immigrants coming into the American fabric are a net plus. We love this — this is our history, this who we are: a nation of immigrants.”
Bachmann added that people in her district have been confused about why Congress is not simply taking on legislation aimed at tighter enforcement of the border. She added that it is most important to fulfill the promise Reagan made with his 1986 amnesty: “He said we would secure the border. Here we are some 30 years later, that promise hasn’t been fulfilled,” she said. “I believe it is imperative that we help to fulfill that promise and then from there go to step two of the conversation.”
California Rep. Dana Rohrabacher took on the political implications of legalizing millions of illegals.
“What has been repeated to us, and what the [congressional Republican] leadership would like to shove down our throats in terms of immigration reform, is bad policy and bad politics,” he said.
According to Rohrbacher, the policy hurts Americans and, politically, it hurts the Republican Party because working-class Americans understand that illegal immigration undercuts wages and jobs.
“In the long run, the Republican Party will be destroyed,” he said. “There’s not just 11 million, there’s 15 to 20 million illegals; then there is family reunification. Within 10 years it means the demise of the Republican Party as we are pushed out even in California,” he said.