GOP Hands Immigration Policy Over To Steve King

The House Republican leadership seems to have handed the handling of the border crisis over to its far-right flank, planning to vote this afternoon on a bill that Rep. Steve King said was “like I ordered it off the menu.”

This is how Rep. Michelle Bachmann described King’s role in the far-right takeover of the border bill:

“We sat down in that room last night, HC 8 … in the Capitol, and it went as smooth as silk. Steve laid it out and in less than two hours we worked it out,” Bachmann said. “It was really a painless process. But it was the first time that I’ve seen leadership recognize, with respect and admiration, the work that Steve King did. Steve helped to completely gut this bill.”

The House is set to vote first on a bill to increase funding to border enforcement and make it easier to deport the Central American children who have been fleeing violence in their home countries. Then, it will vote on a bill to curb President Obama’s ability to halt deportations for DREAMers.

The vote to reel back DACA — Obama’s executive action granting legal status to some undocumented immigrants who came to the country as children — is the result of a concerted campaign by immigration-reform opponents to tie the crisis at the border to deferred action for DREAMers. As soon as the border crisis became national news, anti-immigrant groups started trying to blame it on Obama’s DACA order. But the link just wasn’t there.

The reality is that the border crisis is a separate issue altogether. The number of unaccompanied minors from Central America fleeing to the southern border started growing far before the DACA order in response to increasing drug-war-related violence in Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador.

Anti-immigrant advocates also cite rumors among migrants that those who come to the United States are given a “permiso,” or permit, to stay. But stories on this rumor make clear that it stems from notices to appear in court that are given to some undocumented immigrants who are allowed to stay in the country while their cases are pending, and has nothing to do with the DREAM Act or DACA.

So why are Republicans giving into people like Rep. Steve King and Rep. Michele Bachmann to tie a DACA roll-back to the border bill?

Maybe they think that the disinformation campaign to tie DACA to the border crisis will work. But it seems unlikely that moderate voters — who overwhelmingly see the children at the border as refugees who should be given shelter while their cases are considered — will buy the legislative story put forward by some of the most extreme anti-immigrant members of Congress.

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