Ag Policy Blog

Immigration in the House will be a Harder Sell

Chris Clayton
By  Chris Clayton , DTN Ag Policy Editor
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With all the focus on a potential immigration reform bill coming forward in the Senate, there comes the realization that an immigration bill would also have to pass the House.

On Sunday, the Omaha World-Herald highlighted how at least some conservatives in the House aren't going to go dancing easily into the sunset on Cinco de Mayo simply because election politics have changed. Rep. Steve King, a Republican from Northwest Iowa and member of the House Agriculture Committee, discussed a pause he had to take during a speech on immigration he was giving on the House floor.

"I had to pause for a minute there. I was concerned that might be the Amnesty Act coming over from the United States Senate, but I'm relieved to know that it might be a few more days."

King has never shied away from controversy, immigration debates or his concerns that the English language is protected for posterity. He's also mulling the prospect of running for the U.S. Senate in 2014. A lot of prognosticators say he may be too conservative to win statewide in Iowa, but King has represented now nearly half of Iowa in one manner or the other because of congressional redistricting. He's also more widely known than Democratic Rep. Bruce Braley of eastern Iowa. King also could get a boost if conservative uproar is sparked later this summer in much the same way conservatives rose up in the summer and fall of 2009. Immigration in 2014 could do for conservatives in the House what the healthcare reform bill and climate-change legislation did in 2010.

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As the World-Herald story reflected on Sunday, King is girding for a fight on immigration in the House.

“I understand the political motivation of the people on the other side of the aisle: expand the dependency class, expand those who can vote for those who want to expand the dependency class. I understand those motives. They are not good motives. They undermine American exceptionalism, but I understand them,” he said.

“On our side of the aisle, I don't understand — and I think it's because of our own people don't have this figured out.”

In other recent articles, King also has questioned why some members in the House are negotiating behind closed doors and excluding members such as he and others. King also is a member of the House Judiciary Committee, which would oversee any legislation on immigration reform.

One area that has been missed in some of the articles about King is the makeup of King's congressional district. King takes his position in the largely conservative Northwest corner of Iowa despite the heavy reliance in region's agricultural sector on Latino labor. The 4th Congressional District in Iowa has nine of the 23 counties in the state that have at least 5% or more Latinos in the population. The district has four of the eight counties in the state that have at least 10% or more Latinos. All four of those counties in King's district with double-digit Latino population are large agricultural food processing centers, typically anchored to major meatpacking plants. In Crawford County, where King's hometown, Kiron, is located, more than 25% of the total population is Latino. In Buena Vista County, just to the north, more than 23% are Latino.

Last fall, King faced his toughest election opponent since capturing his congressional seat in 2002. King beat Christie Vilsack, Iowa's former first lady, 53% to 45%, reflecting that if King foregoes the Senate he likely would comfortably maintain his congressional seat.

Sunday's Omaha World-Herald article…

I can be found on Twitter @ChrisClaytonDTN

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