One Republican congressman is calling for the return of earmarks so he can send more money to a zero-tolerance immigration judge in southern Texas.
During a town hall meeting in Houston last Tuesday, Rep. John Culberson (R-TX) reassured the crowd that he and fellow House Republicans would continue to take a hardline approach to immigration reform. “Conservatives make up more than 2/3 of the Republicans in the House,” Culberson said. “We are not going to give citizenship to illegal aliens.”
To reinforce his point, Culberson professed his desire to bring back congressional earmarks — a practice of individual legislators appropriating federal dollars to specific projects, generally in their districts, that was suspended with bipartisan support in 2011 — so he can funnel more federal money to U.S. District Judge Alia Moses Ludlum, a controversial immigration judge in Del Rio, Texas. “I’ve got to restore the earmarks so I can send money to her to help her,” the Texas congressman declared.
CULBERSON: Conservatives make up more than 2/3 of the Republicans in the House. We are not going to give citizenship to illegal aliens. It just doesn’t make any sense. In my mind, it is common sense if you enforce the law as Judge Ludlum is doing in Del Rio, she’s got overwhelming support from the local community. The crime rate has dropped 61 percent, illegal crossings in Del Rio are at the lowest level they’ve ever been since keeping statistics, so if you live in Del Rio, your kids can play in the street. You don’t have to worry about thugs or drug gangs or criminals running around. I’ve got to restore the earmarks so I can send money to her to help her. That’s how you secure the border. They’ve got plenty of border patrol agents, they’re tripping over themselves.
Ludlum oversees immigration cases in Del Rio, Texas and has been criticized by reform advocates for not giving enough time and due process during immigration hearings before ruling, a charge she denies.
It’s not entirely clear whether Culberson is proposing that Congress bring back earmarks so he can personally give Ludlum a bonus or to expand her approach to immigration cases to other parts of Texas. Either way, his willingness to reverse course on earmarks — a major campaign issue Republicans have championed for years — to send money Ludlum’s way underscores just how strident anti-immigrant forces remain as Congress considers immigration reform.
It’s unlikely that Culberson is bluffing when he claims the vast majority of House Republicans oppose a pathway to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented immigrants currently in the country. However, with near-unanimous Democratic support, there are enough House Republicans who support a pathway to pass immigration reform, but only if Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) is willing to stand up to those like Culberson and allow the bill to come to the floor.