Placing Steve King's Comments in Context

Placing Steve King's Comments in Context

Last week, Republican Congressman Steve King was targeted by Speaker Boehner and some pro-amnesty immigration advocates for comments made during an interview with Todd Beamon and John Bachman, describing his opposition to the DREAM (Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors) Act.

During the last decade, Congressman King has been one of the staunchest opponents of the DREAM Act and has devoted considerable effort to highlighting the Act’s potential negative ramifications. The DREAM Act, a legislative proposal first introduced in Congress in 2001, would permit those under the age of 35 at the time of Act’s enactment to be granted a pathway to citizenship. Individuals under the age of 16 when they arrived in America, who have been in the country at least five years and have a diploma from a U.S. high school or the equivalent would be eligible for citizenship. The DREAM Act has been a major legislative goal of the pro open-border and amnesty contingent since its initial introduction and received renewed focus during President Obama’s first year in office.  

A number of versions of the DREAM Act have been introduced in Congress since 2009, with some versions even providing undocumented immigrants with criminal records the opportunity to become US citizens. Although some argue Congressman King was wrong to conflate all illegal immigrants with criminality, he was simply articulating his anger over the numerous loopholes within the proposed legislation. A 2010 version of the legislation actually granted amnesty to qualified individuals with misdemeanor convictions, including DUIs.  

Steve King’s statements also hint at the underlying frustration that he and the majority of Congress have encountered while dealing with the Obama administration’s selective enforcement of immigration laws. Memos written by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Director John Morton in 2011 revealed that Morton ordered ICE agents to abstain from pursuing deportation proceedings against individuals who may qualify for the DREAM Act or those who are classified as “crime victims.” Instead, Morton instructed ICE agents to pursue immigration enforcement only on immigrants with serious criminal records. The Obama administration’s piecemeal approach to immigration enforcement represents nothing less than administrative amnesty, and Representative King is justified in highlighting the ways in which the administration has created different classes of people through its selective reading of immigration law. The Constitution does not provide the Executive such prosecutorial discretion. 

While both Democratic and Republican leaders have been quick to condemn King during the past few days, they are not at all eager to discuss the more complex policy issues within the DREAM Act or other controversial immigration initiatives. For example, many of the policy entrepreneurs behind the Senate approved Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act (Senate Bill 744), were eager to shelve all debate on more contentious components of the bill. In fact, some of the primary architects of the recently-passed Senate Bill 744, such as Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY), urged the House to bring the bill to a vote on the floor, before House members even had the chance to read the massive document. Rather than engrossing the bill into committee for at least ninety days so lawmakers and stakeholders can analyze the legal language in detail, many Democratic activists called for an immediate vote on the complex initiative. A wider and more honest debate would inevitably expose flaws within the legislation and would likely raise the ire of concerned Americans and expose many pro-Amnesty Congressmen to electoral repercussions. 

King commented on the controversy to Breitbart News: “It’s extraordinary to see the Speaker attack a Member who offered nothing but the truth. You wonder why they would act in this way. There are a number of supporters in the House who want to see an amnesty pass.”

The demonization of King does nothing to advance the immigration debate. Let’s hope that members of Congress return from their August recess with a renewed focus on the task at hand–to focus the debate on immigration laws that actually benefit the country.