Pelosi: Race playing role in GOP's reluctance to move immigration bill

Greg Nash

Issues of race have made GOP leaders reluctant to back immigration reform, Rep. Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) charged Thursday.

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The Democratic leader suggested that the Republicans would have moved a reform bill long ago if whites were the only beneficiaries.

"I think race has something to do with the fact that they're not bringing up an immigration bill," Pelosi told reporters in the Capitol. "I've heard them say to the Irish, 'If it were just you, this would be easy.' "

The remarks came in response to a question about the often-testy relationship between congressional Republicans and the administration of President Obama, the nation's first black president.

There's long been grumbling among Democrats that Obama's race has exacerbated the partisan divide between the White House and Capitol Hill Republicans, highlighted recently by a flare-up between Attorney General Eric Holder, who is black, and Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee.

Pelosi was reluctant to say that race issues have fueled those tensions, arguing more broadly that Republicans have been "very disrespectful" of White House officials regardless of their ethnicity.

"I don't really want to go to that place, I would just say that their disdain for anybody who disagrees with them is pretty across the board," Pelosi said.

On the more personal topic of women's issues, Pelosi wasn't as reserved.

"I don't want to go to the race piece, but it certainly applies to women," she said. "It's so self-evident."

Amid the years-long debate on immigration reform, some Republicans have raised eyebrows for race-based comments surrounding the topic.

Last year, Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) suggested most beneficiaries of the Dream Act were drug mules.

"For every one who’s a valedictorian, there’s another hundred out there who they weigh 130 pounds and they’ve got calves the size of cantaloupes because they’ve been hauling 75 pounds of marijuana across the desert," he said.

Around the same time, Rep. Don Young (R-Ala.) was forced to publicly apologize after referencing the "50 to 60 wetbacks" his family would hire to pick tomatoes on his family's ranch years ago. The term is a derogatory reference to the Hispanic migrants who would often cross the Rio Grand to enter the country. 

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