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Friday, October 28, 2016

When I was growing up, my older Mexican-American relatives had an expression: “Tell me who your friends are, and I’ll tell you who you are.”

It was my family’s way of making me careful about choosing my friends.

Even then, I could see they were right. The smart kids mostly hung out with other smart kids. The athletes stuck with other athletes. The troublemakers befriended other troublemakers.

That saying comes to mind when I think about the Iowa Freedom Summit, a big gathering in Des Moines that basically launched the 2016 Republican primary. Many potential GOP presidential candidates journeyed to the Hawkeye State to give speeches and shake hands.

What could be wrong with that?

For starters, the man behind it: Representative Steve King. He’s one of the nation’s most divisive immigration hardliners. It was a mistake for so many potential GOP candidates to associate with him.

King made headlines last January, when President Barack Obama delivered his latest State of the Union address. In a tweet about the speech, King called a young undocumented woman who was brought to this country as a child “a deportable.”

Ana Zamora, the college student he insulted, had benefited from Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA. Zamora was also one of First Lady Michelle Obama’s guests.

Thanks to DACA, the government can’t deport Zamora. But King’s slur highlighted his longstanding hostility toward immigrants.

In 2013, for example, he explained his opposition to the DREAM Act — a bill that would have given certain young undocumented immigrants the right to live and work without fear of deportation — by likening them to drug smugglers.

“For every one who’s a valedictorian,” King told the conservative news site Newsmax, “there’s another 100 out there that weigh 130 pounds and they’ve got calves the size of cantaloupes because they’re hauling 75 pounds of marijuana across the desert.”

He’s also compared undocumented immigrants to dogs.

Despite King’s bile, plenty of potential GOP candidates took part in his summit. Chris Christie, Rick Perry, Mike Huckabee, Rick Santorum, Ted Cruz, and Ben Carson all showed up.

That they would associate with a lawmaker who makes such offensive remarks raises legitimate questions about their judgment and whether they’re presidential material.

By largely letting hardliners like King dictate its immigration policy, the GOP alienates Latino voters. It makes the Republican Party long on ugly rhetoric and short on real solutions.

King has become so toxic that some Iowans are now lamenting his prominence in the GOP.

They’re worried that King could diminish Iowa’s first-in-the-nation caucuses if he continues to be such a diehard opponent of immigration reform, as Matt Hildreth warned in a recent Des Moines Register op-ed.

Most Americans support reform. In fact, a 2013 poll showed that most voters in King’s own district favor it, including a pathway to citizenship for undocumented people like Zamora.

To be fair, not every potential GOP presidential candidate attended the Iowa Freedom Summit. Marco Rubio and Rand Paul passed.

But hold your applause.

They missed King’s event because they were in California meeting in private with the billionaire Koch brothers — who just announced that their network of donors plans to spend a record $889 million on the 2016 election cycle. That staggering amount more than doubles what the Republican National Committee spent in 2012.

Ted Cruz actually made it to both the Iowa Freedom Summit and the Koch brothers’ event.

So there you have it. The next crop of Republican presidential hopefuls is either allied with anti-immigration extremists or at the beck and call of the richest 0.1 percent of Americans.

Or in Cruz’s case, both.

With friends like Steve King and the Koch brothers, Republicans need no help proving that they’re anti-immigrant, elitist, and out of sync with American values.

Raul A. Reyes is an attorney and columnist based in New York City.

Cross-posted from Other Words.

Photo: Gage Skidmore via Flickr

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Copyright 2015 The National Memo
  • FireBaron

    If King is such an embarrassment to his constituents, why to they keep reelecting him?

    • fortunev

      Because they’re knuckle-dragging morans like him.

  • James Bowen

    If it is such a mistake for GOP candidates to associate with Steve King, why did their party do so well in the recent elections by shifting more toward his message and away from the pro-amnesty GOP establishment?

    The bottom line is that the very elites that this articles disparages at the end, including the Koch brothers, are the ones who are pushing for amnesty. There are very few voters who support more immigration, it is something that the rich want because cheap labor makes them richer; and they have suckered in some naive do-gooders.

  • Gary Miles

    Just let them all in, pay them government benefits, give them jobs, housing vaccinations, healthcare and food stamps. I would suggest we have a nationwide vote on the matter. Let the people decide and if the people say yes, then those that vote yes can pay for it via a separate tax. It’s long past time that those who want the government to act, in which billions if mot trillions of dollars are at stake, are forced to pay for their ideology. That’s what is called FAIR

    • Wedge Shot

      I pay for your government benefits so can I refuse to pay for yours?
      You do know that SS and Medicare benefits from illegal immigrants that pay the taxes but can never collect, right?

      • Gary Miles

        I do not get any government benefits that were not part of a contract that guarantees me those benefits. That would be VA healthcare. While I don’t use more than needed, my medical issues are the results of a vaccination that was rushed to those in the first Gulf War, sans testing. But yes, you can refuse. No problem. I believe you should be provided the opportunity to pick and chose what you pay for.
        I’m fully aware of what current laws are when it comes to the immigrant issue. I’m just not in the large group of people who fail to understand that laws change, which could easily change this. Don’t misunderstand me, I’m not against immigration at all. We have laws and Obama’s job is to uphold them, until they are changed. Since the President refuses to uphold the law, it’s time to take that responsibility away from him/her in the future. Because the next one will do the same thing, and you may not like it, then you’ll bitch. At that point all I can say is sorry, you liked it when you agreed with it, now you have to deal with it when you don’t agree with it. In the end, we have nothing short of revolving dictators.

        • Wedge Shot

          You just don’t get it do you.
          The Executive branch of the government, of which Obama is the head, implements and administers the laws and in the case of immigration has to make choices about where to use the limited resources it has to enforce the law. Some of you would suggest that we go door to door and find every single undocumented immigrant, throw them in a concentration camp and deport them as soon as possible. There is due course when implementing the immigration laws and the Obama Administration has deported more people than any president in our history but it is not going to deport children and families with children that have been here for ten of years. I would not be right and it would not be moral. The basis of all laws is a moral obligation to do right and indiscriminate deportations would never be moral or right. The immigration laws need to be re-written and congress refuses to do it and in fact the hallmark of the Republicans is “do nothing and bitch”.

        • Independent1

          You’re obviously posting with no knowledge of what you’re posting about. As Wedge Shot pointed out, When Obama took office, he followed through on what George Bush started and completed the building of the wall along our border and with beefing up the number of guards on our border so America’s southern border is the most secure that it has ever been, and the number of illegals crossing the border is at the lowest levels in several decades. Anyone who has a notion that our southern border can be made impervious, and will stop every illegal from getting over it is a blithering idiot, It just ain’t going to happen – and spending billions more dollars would accomplish very little more than has already been done.

          But where you’re also missing the boat is that illegals are no where near the bane that you apparently and a number of other anti-immigrant posters on the NM want to believe. The CBO has estimated that, in fact, for the most part, states pay very little more with respect to providing social services to illegals than they already pay to provide those services to their native-born residents. And despite what many would like you to believe, illegals commit far less crime than native-born Americans. In fact, native born Americans are ten times more likely to commit a crime than an illegal, and 2 1/2 times more likely to be put in jail.

          On the other side of the coin, the CBO has estimated that illegals are keeping as many as 8 million native born Americans working with all the money they spend driving our economy and the fact that many of them create small businesses that hire native-born Americans. And the work they do on the cheap for farmers and some of the back breaking construction work like digging ditches; helps maintain more jobs for native born Americans like long-haul truck drivers for the product illegals pick that native-born Americans refuse to do for the little these illegals get paid.

          So anti-immigration wing nuts are really not using their heads. If America were to suddenly lose a large number of illegals, it would easily throw America back into a recession possibly as bad or worse than the Great Recession. It only took 1-2 months after Alabama passed the most strict immigration law in the nation which drove the illegal and many legal immigrants out of the state for companies across Alabama to complain to the government that unless the law was changed, they would either have to leave the state or go out of business because they were unable to find the help they needed to stay in business (farmers, construction companies, motels, hotels and others – even Mercedes Benz threatened to move out of state because of the negative vibes the strict Alabama immigration law had created),

        • dpaano

          Godzilla: It would be interesting in knowing which country your ancestors came from and how they became citizens.

  • Daniel Jones

    With friends like these, they need enemas.

  • dpaano

    Daniel….they’d probably just enjoy that too much!