During a press conference in Guadalajara, Mexico, on Monday, President Obama said immigration reform will be a major focus for his administration in 2010, once the dust settles from the health-care debate. ABC News reports that Obama called for “bipartisan cooperation” before issuing the opening salvo of next year’s immigration battle with a little name-calling. “There are going to be demagogues out there who try to suggest that any form of pathway for legalization for those who are already in the United States is unacceptable,” said Obama. “Those are fights that I’d have to have if my poll numbers are at 70 or if my poll numbers are at 40. That’s just the nature of the U.S. immigration debate.”
Iowa congressman Steve King, the GOP’s ranking member on the House Subcommittee on Immigration, told NRO that the president is not winning any new friends across the aisle with such rhetoric. “If I was going to put a label on the president’s statements, I’d have to get my thesaurus,” King said. “He and the Democrats have already used up the terms demagogue and un-American.”
“I know that the open borders people are aggressively pushing the president,” said King. “They’ll say we got you elected; now it’s time to receive our due. However, if the White House pushes this, they’ll be very close to reaching their limit with the American people” in terms of political capital, King predicted. Looking forward, he said that “this debate is kind of like a barbell. The weight on one side is the political benefit for Democrats, which Republicans are reluctant to talk about. The other side is business interested in cheap labor. The bar in the middle is the middle class. Open borders will squeeze the middle class.”
For now, King said, Republicans in the House are slowly beginning to build their case against the president’s likely plan (Obama’s campaign positions on immigration can be found here). King noted, however, that the House GOP will wait to develop any major rebuttal until the president’s policy proposal is officially announced. “We’ll do a lot of things then to bring our position out and block the things they want to do.”
“A socialization of America is taking place,” said King. “Now that you have a national health-care plan, if you add a path to citizenship for the 12 to 20 million people here illegally, you will turn America into a huge magnet. America will become a giant ATM for those living nearby. The problem is that the money in the ATM is increasingly borrowed.”
And about Obama’s hopes for bipartisanship on immigration reform? Hardly the case, said King. “It’s pretty clear they’re not reaching out to me,” he said.
– Robert Costa is the William F. Buckley Jr. Fellow in Political Journalism at the National Review Institute.