U.S. Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, talks about his concerns with developing immigration reform at a rally outside the U.S. Capitol. King, speaking at the podium, is standing with (from left) Republican Congressmen Randy Weber of Texas, Matt Salmon of Arizona and Paul Broun of Georgia.
U.S. Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, talks about his concerns with developing immigration reform at a rally outside the U.S. Capitol. King, speaking at the podium, is standing with (from left) Republican Congressmen Randy Weber of Texas, Matt Salmon of Arizona and Paul Broun of Georgia.
June 20, 2013



Washington, D.C.

U.S. Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, concerned his party may be abandoning core principles in a rush to immigration reform, organized a "press conference" outside the nation's capitol Wednesday to protest what he called a push to amnesty for millions of people living in America without proper papers.

More than 500 people gathered as King, flanked by other conservative lawmakers, launched the event in the morning. About a thousand people, including many western Iowa students in Washington for a rural electric conference, would stream by to catch parts of speeches targeted mainly at immigration reform, but also stretching into fierce critiques of the Obama administration in general, the Internal Revenue Service and government surveillance. Dozens of tea party members joined the gathering, near the steps of the U.S. House chambers.

"It seems to be that the green flag's been dropped on immigration here in the House, too, so that's why we are here today," King said.

King said Congress appears poised to surrender the "rule of law," in allowing provisions to make life comfortable for undocumented residents. He said evolving immigration reform would promote activities such as "birth tourism," in which pregnant foreigners come to the United States for the sole purpose of achieving citizenship for their babies.

"As this debate has accelerated, it's moved along a lot faster than I'm comfortable with," King said.

A little more than a year ago, the Obama administration bypassed Congress and partially achieved the goals of the so-called DREAM Act, a long-sought but never enacted plan to establish a path toward citizenship for young people who came to the United States illegally but who have attended college or served in the military. DREAM is an acronym for Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors

"We want to talk about the president defying his oath of office and refusing to enforce immigration law," said King, who has led an effort to de-fund the Obama program.

Just days before the Capitol Hill event, King used the Internet social media tool Twitter to criticize immigrants who came to his office in support of immigration reform. King's Twitter post: "20 brazen self professed illegal aliens have invaded my DC office. Obama's lawless order gives them de facto immunity from U.S. law."

U.S. Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Texas, said the crucial element in the immigration debate is protecting the nation's borders, an issue he sees as one chiefly of national security.

"We now know we have to protect ourselves," Gohmert said. "9-11 sent a message loud and clear. The oceans no longer protect you."

The United States must enforce the "rule of law," Gohmert said.

"We have to enforce our avenues of entry," he said.

Another Texan, Republican Congressman Randy Weber, noticed a number of signs in the crowd related to recent reports of government surveillance, an imbroglio in recent weeks in Congress. The director of the National Security Agency has contended secret-data collection efforts stopped terrorist attacks. The NSA, relying on classified orders from a secret court, gathered phone records on millions of Americans.

"All of the this controversy about the NSA brings to light one thing to my mind," Weber said. "We finally have a president that listens to all Americans. Isn't that sad?"

Following his colleagues' remarks, King said he's inspired by Texas.

"You know, there have been a good number of times, being a guy from Iowa, I've looked around at that Texas delegation and thought this country would be in sad shape without them," King said.

Monica Roles of Moorefield, W.Va., a mental-health counselor, carried a sign that said, "Secure the border, deport illegals, no amnesty."

"I think that our leaders have gotten away from the Constitution, and that's the law of our land," Roles said.

She said her primary concern is that the southern border is too weak.

"I don't think there's any American citizen that could cross from America into Canada without a visa, passport, you know, checks, and yet people are just flooding across our borders," Roles said in an interview. "We have criminals coming in, and they're, of course, depleting our system. I personally don't believe they should be here."

Evelyn Derstine, a retired teacher living in Harrisonburg, Va., said the United States needs to stop providing jobs, health care and education to immigrants here without papers.

"Any person who comes across our borders, the borders of the United States of America, without a visa, is committing a crime," she said in an interview during the congressional speeches.

King told The Daily Times Herald that the event was developed as a press conference so participants would have access to the prime location near the capitol. King and other members of Congress fielded several questions from attendees.