The U.S. Senate Gang of Eight unveiled its immigration reform legislation, promising stronger border security, much-need reforms for visas and legal immigration practices and a path to citizenship â but Iowa Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, told WND the only thing guaranteed in this bill is a reward for those who came here illegally.
"The big comprehensive amnesty plan is a disaster and a big mistake," King said. "What are we trying to fix here, and why? We have an executive branch problem, not a legislative branch problem. The president of the United States has refused to enforce immigration law with which he disagrees. So he's seeking to write his own by executive edict."
King said Obama's approach to border enforcement has been infuriating, but the likelihood of Republicans getting behind this legislation leaves him baffled.
"Now I'm hearing Republicans say, 'Well, if we're ever going to have enforcement of the border, we have to make this agreement with the president and the Democrats or we're never going to have border security,'" he said. "When I read this bill, I wonder: What's the point in having border security if you're going to legalize anybody that can come into America that is here and send an invitation to those that have been deported to apply to come back in?"
The congressman is also not impressed by the severe penalties the Gang of Eight is promising to impose on those willing to go through the legalization process.
"In the bill, they have to pay a fine. That's supposed to be the penalty for unlawful entry into the United States or a visa overstay," King said. "That's a $500 penalty fee that's good for six years. You can renew it for another six years for another $500. So the cost to stay in the United States to get legalized is $83.33 a year. That's one of those onerous provisions that they point out."
King said the criminal background checks are also a Gang of Eight fantasy. He said the only way to review the backgrounds of illegals is to have trained investigators interview them or get the fingerprints of everyone unlawfully in the country. King said those who have committed crimes simply won't step forward to become legal, and they'll stay here anyway. He also noted that America's experience with amnesty in 1986 foreshadowed the mess that would come in the Gang of Eight plan.
"In the '86 amnesty act, only about half of the people who were eligible came forward, but a whole lot of people that weren't did and there was about 70 percent fraud in that system. Eight-hundred thousand to a million people became three million people," King said. "This bill simply opens it up even more. It doesn't tighten down. It doesn't learn from our mistakes in the past. It doubles down and triples and quadruples down on the mistakes of the past. For me, I'm not speechless, but I'm having a hard time explaining how it is that otherwise smart people could come to these conclusions."
King's first step toward solving the immigration problems would be to enforce the border security laws that the Obama administration and others refuse to execute.
"If I had (Homeland Security Secretary) Janet Napolitano's job and I wasn't tied down by a leash from the president, I could give you something like 98 or 99 percent operational control of the border. I could do that with the resources we're spending now. If I can tell you that, then I don't know what we're trying to accomplish here. Why don't we utilize the laws that we've passed and the resources that we have?" asked King, who said most of the border fence is still not done despite Congress passing legislation to construct it.
"This is a political battle that's going on, and so far the rule-of-law side hasn't been winning," he said.
This immigration push seems to have more momentum than previous efforts, with the Republican National Committee specifically saying in its 2012 campaign report that the GOP needs to get behind immigration legislation to win back some of the Hispanic vote. King said that logic is deeply flawed.
"That 44 percent of the Hispanic vote that in that report they claimed George Bush got in his 2004 election, he did not receive that. Any objective scrutiny of that number takes you down to no more than 40 percent, most likely between 38-40 percent of the Hispanic vote," King said. "Could George Bush receive 44 percent of that vote today? That answer is probably and very likely no. They leap to a conclusion and build a generalized case around it."
King said most Republicans have been quiet on the issue as they waited for the Gang of Eight to come up with a bill. He noted that he took a leading role against the plan when no one else stepped up, and House leadership seemed to deride their position.
"It even went so far as one of the leadership's voices almost taunted the conservatives in that we wouldn't do anything or speak up, and they specifically mentioned myself and (Texas Rep.) Louie Gohmert. So I decided: Lets meet. Let's talk. Let's plan. Let's take action, because we can't let this thing sneak through unopposed," he said.
Since then, the congressman said many GOP members have quietly encouraged him but are not yet ready to publicly oppose the Gang of Eight plan.
King admitted the strong advocacy of Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., hurts the efforts of conservatives to raise concerns about the bill. He said he has great respect for Rubio but fears the senator got in too deep with the likes of Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y.; Bob Menendez, D-N.J.; and Dick Durbin, D-Ill., to figure out how to get out of the bipartisan alliance.
The House would be unlikely to take up the same version of immigration legislation as the Senate, but King fears that any tiny House reforms could lead to the Senate version becoming law.
"I'm worried that the House might pass a single piece of legislation that does make sense, like mandatory E-Verify. But it becomes the conference vehicle for a Senate amnesty plan. And as the leadership of the House and Senate appointed a conference committee, there's a risk that they would send us back a comprehensive amnesty plan for an up-or-down in the House, where every Democrat would vote for it. A handful of Republicans would. It would go to the president's desk, and it would be an irreversible thing," King said.
Iowa will have an open U.S. Senate seat in 2014, as Democratic Sen. Tom Harkin is retiring. King is carefully considering the race but said he has not decided whether to join the race.
"It looks like there's a relatively open path to the nomination, at least today. I have done statewide polling and gotten a look at it. I've said from the beginning, it's a slight uphill battle. I know that. I know what it takes to win. I can see the path to victory," King said. "There's some significant components that we need to put together to say yes, and they all seem to be doable. On the other hand, all of the systems aren't go. So now it's a 50-50 and unknown on when the decision would be, but hopefully it's sooner rather than later because many others need to have that kind of information so they can make their plans."