House Republicans can't piecemeal immigration reform because President Barack Obama cannot be trusted, Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) charged Tuesday.
Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) speaks during the Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition's Friends of the Family Banquet in Des Moines Iowa Saturday Nov. 9, 2013 (AP/Justin Hayworth)
House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and some Republicans resistant to the Senate immigration bill that passed this summer that would grant legal status to about 11 million illegal immigrants, are nevertheless open to a series of smaller bills. Last month, Obama said he would be open to smaller pieces of legislation instead of one large comprehensive bill.
“None of those should go anywhere in this Congress because in each case it is a piece of legislation that no one who advocates for it from our side of the perspective can paint the picture of how a border security bill or a guest worker bill that doesn't grant amnesty could get to the president's desk for a signature without also having amnesty as part of it,” King said during an immigration panel sponsored by conservative government watchdog group Judicial Watch.
King is a leading figure among Tea Party members of Congress and could hold sway over other House conservatives that the party leadership is trying to win over on immigration reform.
“It would become a vehicle for the Senate to slap their language on it and then push it back to the House for a conference report,” King went on. “All Democrats would vote for it and a dozen or so Republicans would and it would go to the president's desk.”
King said Obama is not reliable when it comes to enforcing immigration.
“You cannot trust this president. He has proven that to us,” King said. “Even the leftists cannot look you in the eye and say 'the president told me the truth.' That doesn't exist with this president. He has always been unreliable. He hasn't kept his word many times, especially over immigration.”
Obama – who has supported a broad comprehensive bill that would combine granting legal status with stronger border enforcement – said last month that he would support a multi-bill approach.
“They’re suspicious of comprehensive bills, but if they want to chop that thing up into five pieces, as long as all five pieces get done, I don’t care what it looks like as long as it’s actually delivering on those core values that we talk about,” Obama said.
It's likely the only House bill that could make it through the Senate to the president would be the KIDS Act, a variation of the DREAM Act, which allows children of illegal immigrants to remain in the country, sponsored by House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.), said Rosemary Jenks, director of government relations for Numbers USA, which advocates for enforcement of immigration laws.
Even that, she warned, could be worked back into the Senate bill through conference committee.
“The Senate bill will not just grant amnesty to all of the illegal aliens who are here,” Jenks said during the panel discussion. “It would also double legal immigration, double the number of guest workers coming in to take American jobs. We have right now the lowest labor participation rate that we've had since before women started entering the labor force in the 1970s. We have unemployment of 7 percent. We do not have a labor shortage in this country. We have a job shortage.”
Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies, a conservative think tank, recalled how many expected an immigration bill to pass in 2013 and predicted no immigration reform bill would make it through in 2014.
He further said that breaking up the bills would risk breaking up the coalition of business lobbyist and immigration activists pushing the bill.
“The political rationale is that it's the only way to keep this political coalition together,” Krikorian said. “In all the kids singing Christmas carols to Speaker Boehner and all that stuff, that's all window dressing. It's giant bags of money from business lobbyist that is making this happen. Business groups couldn't give a rat's petunia about the amnesty part. What they want is doubling immigration. Only by keeping those two disparate pieces together can they basically keep business in line.”
Watch the full panel discussion below: