By Jordy Yager - 04/19/11 10:16 AM EDT
Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa), who once suggested handling illegal immigrants in a way similar to how farmers handle livesock, took first place in a "Hall of Shame" list compiled by the Immigrants' List political action committee (PAC).
The group named eight other Republicans and one Democrat on Tuesday, claiming they are “the biggest obstacles” to overhauling the nation's immigration laws.
The PAC also names GOP Reps. Lamar Smith (Texas), Ed Royce (Calif.), Pete King (N.Y.), Michele Bachmann (Minn.), Brian Bilbray (Calif.), Candice Miller (Mich.) and Ben Quayle (Ariz.), as well as Sen. John Boozman (R-Ark.).
“We need reform that unites families, promotes fair employment practices and restores America’s place as a nation that welcomes those seeking freedom from persecution and a better way of life,” said Amy Novick, the executive director of Immigrants' List.
The Republicans who responded to requests for comment by The Hill balked at the list, calling it a publicity “gimmick” while shooting holes in several of the PAC’s claims.
The PAC named Steve King as No. 1 on its list, referring to several controversial comments the Iowa lawmaker has made in the past.
“Politicians like Steve King — who compare people seeking a better life to ‘livestock’ — appeal to people’s worst instincts,” Novick said. “And in doing so, they prevent the reform Americans want.”
Novick was referring to comments King made on the House floor in 2008, when he unveiled a miniature model of a 13.5-foot-tall wall that he proposed to build along the U.S.-Mexico border to prevent people from crossing illegally. He suggested using electrified barbed wire on top of the wall.
“We can also electrify this wire with the kind of current that wouldn’t kill somebody but it would simply be a discouragement for them to be fooling around with it,” King said at the time. “We do that with livestock all the time.”
King’s office did not return a request for comment.
As chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Smith was No. 2 on the PAC’s list for what the group said was his opposition to granting citizenship to children born in the United States to parents in the country illegally.
In a statement, Smith defended his stance and chided the PAC for trying to take a shot at him.
“Those who oppose enforcing the law often turn to name-calling when they do not have the facts on their side," Smith said.
“It is unfair to grant automatic citizenship to children of illegal immigrants because it undermines the intention of the 14th Amendment, encourages illegal immigration and costs taxpayers. Passing a law to eliminate birth citizenship is constitutional and would help deter illegal immigration,” Smith said.
Boozman’s office said that the junior senator from Arkansas was committed to continuing immigration talks.
“Sen. Boozman welcomes an adult discussion about our nation’s immigration policy. That is how difficult problems are solved,” said Patrick Creamer, a spokesman for Boozman.
“Unfortunately, this PR gimmick offers nothing of value to the debate over this issue. Sen. Boozman is committed to enforcing our current immigration laws, encouraging employers to use E-Verify worksite enforcement and securing our borders.”
According to the PAC’s website, it is primarily focused on overturning the immigration law that bans anyone caught living in the U.S. illegally from returning to the country under a legal status for periods ranging from three to 10 years. The PAC is also pushing for the government to grant the departments of Justice and Homeland Security “the power to exercise discretion over when to incarcerate and when to release” legal permanent residents who have committed a criminal offense.
The PAC said it has raised nearly $500,000 for more than 60 political candidates since it was founded five years ago.
House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Pete King, who is ranked No. 4 on the list, said he was "proud" to be on it because he opposes granting illegal immigrants amnesty.
“Coming from a pro-amnesty crowd such as this, I am proud to be on their hate list," said King. "I am proud to continue my stance for legal immigration and against illegal immigration.”
A spokesman for Bachmann trumpeted her support for an immigration law passed in Arizona last year that the Justice Department has blocked. The law would have required police to verify a person’s immigration status if he or she is stopped and suspected of being in the country illegally.
“Congresswoman Bachmann stands by her support for the state of Arizona to pass and enforce laws designed to protect the people of Arizona,” said Doug Sachtleben, a spokesman for Bachmann.
Bilbray, who is the chairman House Immigration Reform Caucus, stressed how important it is for Congress to oversee the implementation of, and adherence to, the employee E-Verify system.
“What part of ‘illegal’ in ‘illegal immigration’ do people not understand?" Bilbray said in a statement. "The mixed message Washington has sent to illegal immigrants for the past decade is tremendously irresponsible given the risks to life and freedom that illegal immigrants take.
"This is not about politics, this is about people’s lives. Congress should enact laws that end our implicit encouragement of illegal immigration and address its cause: employers who hire illegal labor."
Bilbray, Smith and Steve King were all on the list last year as well.
Royce's and Quayle’s offices declined to comment. Shuler’s office did not return a request for comment.
This post was updated at 1:52 p.m.