Today, Congress welcomes for orientation a new class of fresh-faced Republicans to Washington, DC. These newcomers also usher in a whole new brand of congressional leadership because, with the new House majority, the GOP’s veteran extremists are set to become Committee chairmen.
But not all Republicans are thrilled by this right-wing swing. Last week, a Republican Latino group — the Somos Republicans — wrote an open letter to presumptive House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) and current House Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-VA) requesting that they reconsider entrusting Rep. Steve King (R-IA) and Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX) with House subcommittee on immigration and the House judiciary Committee chairmanships, respectively. Due to both King and Smith’s “defamatory” anti-immigrant rhetoric and policies, the group warned that their leadership would insult Latinos and wreck the GOP’s chances in 2012:
As we are already looking toward the 2012 Presidential Elections, we respectfully ask you to take heed to our request out of concern for our nation. Congressmen Smith and King have repeatedly engaged in rhetoric that is aimed negatively toward Hispanics. Steve King has used defamatory language that is extremely offensive to Hispanics, which is found in numerous congressional records. We believe Steve King’s behavior is not appropriate for a high-level elected Republican who might be in charge of a committee that handles immigration rules. Steve King and Lamar Smith have adopted extreme positions on birthright citizenship, and promise legislation that would undermine the 14th amendment of the constitution, which both swore an oath to uphold.
While it is indeed the duty of the Judiciary and Immigration committees to oversee and enforce existing immigration laws, Representatives Smith and King have engaged in an ill-advised platform and rhetoric that has been perceived as insensitive with their inflammatory “immigration statements,” and this has caused an exodus of Hispanic voters to the Democratic party. We ask that you review Mr. King’s and Mr. Smith’s congressional statements desiring to “pass a bill out of the House to end the Constitution’s birthright citizenship for U.S.-born children of illegal immigrants,” or what Steve King has made reference to “anchor babies.” We find both this rhetoric and this un-constitutional conduct reprehensible, insulting and a poor reflection upon Republicans because we don’t want our Party to be viewed as the Party of changing the United States Constitution.
Failing to receive a response last week, the Somos Republicans sent an “urgent letter” Friday regrading King’s continued use of “defamatory language that is extremely offensive to Hispanics,” referring to another instance in which King used the term “anchor baby” when asked a question pertaining to Harry Reid and the DREAM Act on FOX News. King said that children qualifying for a path to citizenship under the DREAM Act “are illegal. They aren’t anchor babies that were born here and that received this practice of birthright citizenship. They came here illegally.”
The Somos Republicans are right to be worried. King has become “the right’s biggest anti-immigration flamethrower” by comparing “border-crossers to livestock,” describing illegal immigration as a “slow-motion terrorist attack,” and defending racial profiling because “looking illegal” is “common sense.” Earlier this month, King even announced his plans to advance legislation to “put an end to the anchor babies in this country.” In a quick look at Smith’s anti-immigration efforts, including ending birthright citizenship and preventing non-existent “de-facto amnesties,” the Wonk Room’s Andrea Nill notes that Smith will similarly “use his leadership position to push through his anti-immigrant agenda.”
Despite the seniority of these two bosom buddies, the GOP should heed the Somos Republicans warning. As Nill points out, the “GOP is quickly losing the few Latino leaders it once had.” And with a third of the incoming class chomping at the bit to end birthright citizenship and thus reduce legal immigration, Republicans are giving Latinos more incentive to abandon the Party. (HT: Iowa Independent)
Cross-posted at ThinkProgress.