House conservatives continue to buck GOP on immigration

Republicans in both the House and the Senate have supported the ongoing effort to pass comprehensive immigration reform, but a handful of conservative House Republicans opposed to the effort made clear on Tuesday that they're not going anywhere.

To illustrate just how adamantly he opposes any legislative effort that includes "amnesty" -- or a pathway to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented immigrants in the country -- Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, said that the idea is worse than Obamacare.

"I've spent years of my life fighting against Obamacare," King said to reporters Tuesday, at a press conference in front of the U.S. Capitol. "If [there] was somehow an offer that said you're going to get one or the other, I would take Obamacare and try to live with that before I ever try to live with this amnesty plan."

While Obamacare could still be repealed or rolled back, he said that when it comes to granting legal status to undocumented immigrants, "that genie can't be put back in the bottle."

King was joined by Reps. Mo Brooks, R-Ala.; John Fleming, R-La.; Louis Gohmert, R-Texas; Paul Gosar, R-Ariz.; and Steve Stockman, R-Texas. Reps. Lou Barletta, R-Pa., and Lamar Smith, R-Texas, also oppose the comprehensive reform efforts.

The congressmen explained their opposition to "amnesty" is about the economy, national security issues and preserving the "rule of law."

Gohmert said that if the nation sets the precedent of changing the rules for certain undocumented immigrants, the nation risks "disintegrating into the same type of chaos from which these people came."

The Texas congressman added that he supports legal immigration but that the first step in any reform effort must be securing the border. Gohmert insisted the Obama administration isn't doing enough to secure the border -- even though the U.S. government is spending more on immigration enforcement than all other principal federal criminal law enforcement agencies combined, according to the Migration Policy Institute, while the number of undocumented immigrants has declined from its peak of 12 million in 2007. Because of increased border security spending in recent years, 57 percent of the southern border under effective control, up from 31 percent in 2007, according to government estimates.

Nevertheless, Gohmert asked, "Why are we standing for a president who won't secure the border?"

For President Obama to say he won't secure the border first, he continued, would be, "hypothetically, like some random president saying, 'Hey media, if you don't write good stories, I'm going to go into your phone records on a regular basis until you start - just hypothetically... ... None of us would stand for that, right?"

Gohmert was referencing the recent revelation that the Justice Department secretly obtained two months' worth of the Associated Press' phone records.

In spite of the impassioned opposition to comprehensive immigration reform, several prominent Republicans, including some GOP leaders, have remained supportive of the effort. House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said last week with respect to immigration reform, "This is an issue that has been around far too long and needs to be dealt with, and I intend to see that it's dealt with."

In the Senate, meanwhile, the Judiciary Committee continued the job of considering hundreds of amendments to the comprehensive bill drafted by the bipartisan "gang of eight."

After a lengthy debate over the pros and cons of biometric entry and exit systems at the border, the committee rejected an amendment, introduced by Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., requiring such a tracking system. The committee also rejected an amendment from Sessions that would have limited the number of legal immigrants that could enter the country on worker visas.

Comments