Two top Senate Democrats took the fight for an immigration bill to the home district of one of the issue’s toughest critics, Republican Rep. Steve King.
Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) and Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) went to Ames, Iowa on Friday to may hay out of King’s remarks about the “Dreamers,” those young people brought here as children by their undocumented parents.
“There have been some characterizations of these young students that aren’t fair at all,” Durbin said at a rally Friday.
King often makes headlines for extra strong statements, but he struck a bigger nerve recently when he said of the Dreamers that there are 100 drug smugglers for every valedictorian among them. Even some top Republicans called the statement hateful and ignorant.
Now immigration supporters are using the incident to rally for their cause, including 24-year-old Eduardo Rodriguez, who was born in Mexico and whose parents brought him to Iowa when he was 1. Rodriguez also spoke at Friday’s rally.
Durbin is a kind of hero to Rodriguez and other immigration activists. He’s the author of the Dream Act, which creates a path to legal residency for dreamers. He’s also one of the gang of eight, the bipartisan group that shepherded a comprehensive immigration overhaul through the Senate.
“We came together on a bipartisan basis,” he told the crowd, “and at the end of the day we passed a bill,”
The rally was in King’s district, but most who showed up were not on King’s side. Retired county attorney and now immigration activist Mary Richards would like to see the Republican-controlled House take up the Senate bill.
“That’s true.” Richard says. “I’m very much opposed to (King’s) position.”
King turned down requests for interviews, but on a conservative talk show on Omaha’s KFAB Radio he said he didn’t care if even Republican House Speaker John Boehner criticizes him.
“There’s no denying the fact of what I said,” he said. “So they attack the messenger because the facts undermind their dreamer amnesty agenda.”
But a small group King supporters protesters outside the rally. Retired journalist Larry Clayton held a banner saying “Secure the Borders First.”
“I believe that the amnesty bill, which is what I call it, or the Dream Act or whatever, makes a mockery out of our current immigration system,” Clayton said.
It’s unclear what part of the Senate package could come up for a vote in the House. King’s Republican leaders say they plan to look at immigration bills on a piecemeal basis starting this autumn.