The most vocal opponent of comprehensive immigration reform in the House of Representatives says that he would “likely” support at least a limited “amnesty” — but only once the southern border is truly secure.
“I am opposed to the legalization of people that are unlawfully here unless and until we restore the respect for the law and the expectation that it will be enforced,” Iowa Republican Rep. Steve King told The Daily Caller. “Short of that, we sacrifice the rule of law — at least with regard to immigration — for all time.”
When asked if he would support some type of legalization of illegal immigrants after the border is secured to his standards, King said he probably would.
“I would say the answer to that is likely yes and the time to take that discussion up is after we restore the rule of law,” he said. “I think it is a three- to five-year endeavor, if we had an honorable president.”
Opponents of comprehensive immigration reform often define “amnesty” to mean any form of legalization for illegal immigrants residing in the United States, even if the legalization comes with penalties, such as a fine.
Throughout the interview, King measured a reluctance to outright endorse what he defines as amnesty with the admission he would support a form of legalization — but only if the southern border was ever truly secure.
“So I am reluctant to say that amnesty is a possibility because I am not very confident about the probability of getting to that point [of border security]. We haven’t seen a president that can do this in my adult lifetime,” he said later in the interview, before specifying the type of border security he is calling for.
“If all those things are working and we get down to the people whose roots go deep, who could clearly prove that they were brought here by their parents without knowledge that they were breaking the law or without responsibility — or that particular responsibility — I think we can have that discussion then,” he said, suggesting he may support something along the lines of the DREAM Act — a bill introduced in the Senate that would have provided a pathway to legalization for illegal immigrants brought to the U.S. as minors by their parents.
Asked if he would consider going beyond something like the DREAM Act if the border was secure, King said, “I don’t know. I haven’t contemplated that.”
“I think the real equation is anything that I might support for legalization at some place in the future cannot sacrifice the rule of law. That’s a tough equation to come to, I know. So I am even hesitant about the DREAM Act kids, because what is that scenario?”
“The rule of law is more important than our level of sympathy for people whom, many of whom wasn’t their fault,” he added. “If we destroy the rule of law forever in this country, at least in regard to immigration, then that means the rule of law will be eroded in many other categories as well.”
Texas Republican Rep. Louie Gohmert, another staunch opponent of comprehensive immigration reform, didn’t go as far as King in an interview with TheDC, but he did insinuate that he would support some type of amnesty if the border was truly secure.
“Our position is the border must be secured — not verified by Homeland Security or anybody in the administration — it has to be secured as verified by the states involved,” Gohmert said. “And once the border is secured, then we’ll work out a bill very quickly, but I think it is a huge mistake to be talking about legal status, amnesty, path to citizenship until the border is secured. Secure the border and I absolutely know we can get a deal worked out on the other things very quickly.”
Gohmert said he didn’t want to talk about whether or not he would support a form of legalization for the illegal immigrants already in the United States until after the border is secure because such talk encourages more illegal immigrants to flood into the U.S.
“They’re trying to get here for their amnesty,” he said. “We should not be talking about anything but securing the border. Once you do that, once it’s verified it is secured, we’ll get an immigration bill, will do the reform, all those things.”
But when asked if he was saying that a bipartisan immigration bill would be easy to get through once the border is secure, Gohmert said yes.
“I think you would have a very bipartisan bill once the border is secure,” he said.
House Democrats are unalterably opposed to supporting any immigration bill that doesn’t include some form of legalization for illegal immigrants, which suggests Gohmert would support some form of amnesty once the border is secure if he believes a bipartisan bill would quickly get done at that point.
But not all immigration opponents TheDC talked to came out for or hinted at a form of legalization after the border is secure. Pennsylvania Rep. Lou Barletta expressed exasperation when asked if he would support some type of legalization for the estimated 11 million illegal immigrants in the U.S. after the border is secure.
“That’s the most asked question when it comes to immigration reform and I’m going to answer it with another question,” he said. “What do we do about the 22 million Americans who couldn’t find work this morning? What do we do with the legal immigrants who came to America for an opportunity and a better job? What do we do with the single mom who works three jobs to put food on the table for her children? And what do we do with high-school dropouts when he or she can’t find a job any longer? Why, when we talk about immigration reform, is the debate always about what are we going to do with the 11 million people who knowingly came to America illegally and never about the innocent victims of what the consequences might be should we give them amnesty?”
Barletta said it is impossible to give an opinion on what he would support once the border is secure because the circumstances could change by the time that occurs. For instance, he suggested illegal immigrants could launch a series of terrorist attacks across the country.
“If unemployment was still high, you know, and there was 30 million people here, would Congress have the same opinion to, you know, bring 30 million more workers into the work force?” he asked. “If we saw terrorist attacks on our homeland involving illegal immigrants, could that change anyone’s mind? And it could. These are things that could also happen — hypothetical — that could change people’s opinion. So I think to answer that question really is not fair because we don’t know, you know, what the situation will be when we get to that point.”