GOP rep: Illegal immigrants here ‘to live in the shadows’
© Greg Nash

Rep. Steve KingSteven (Steve) Arnold KingSanders thanks Iowa voters for giving momentum to progressive agenda Sanders: Trump setting 'terrible example' for our children Sanders, Harris set to criss-cross Iowa MORE (R-Iowa) said late Tuesday that illegal immigrants enter the U.S. with no expectations of becoming citizens.

“They came here to live in the shadows, they didn’t come here with an expectation that they would demand a path to citizenship,” he told host Chris Hayes on MSNBC’s “All In.”

“I think many of them would live in the shadows over a period of time,” King said. "That’s the existence that they’ve asked for.

“I’d rather see that than reward breaking the law [and] bring more lawbreakers,” the Iowa congressman added. "We have an obligation to protect the rule of law.”

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King then argued for deporting illegal immigrants as authorities encounter them.

“When law enforcement encounters people who are unlawfully present in America, if you’re going to respect the rule of law, you have to put them back in the condition that they’re in, the position they were in before they broke the law,” he said.

“That means that lawbreakers will go home when they’re encountered by law enforcement, but it doesn’t mean that there will be massive roundup of any kind,” King added.

King’s remarks follow his endorsement last week of 2016 presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas). King praised the White House hopeful late Tuesday for echoing many of his positions on immigration. 

“I don’t have any doubt,” King said when asked if Cruz’s views on immigration mirror his own.

“When I look at the 11-page immigration paper that he put out ... it checks all the boxes that I would like to check,” the congressman said.

“[It is about] securing the border, restoring respect for the rule of law and ending the sanctuary cities ... in our country,” King added. "It goes a long ways toward solving our immigration problems.”

King is a longtime immigration hard-liner and a notable figure among his state’s conservative faction. He hosts an annual Rally for Religious Liberty in Des Moines that frequently draws presidential hopefuls.

Cruz is within the margin of error for first place in Iowa, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released Tuesday. He takes 23 percent there, behind national GOP front-runner Donald Trump’s 25 percent. 

Cruz is less competitive with Trump’s lead on a national scale, according to the latest RealClearPolitics average. Trump presently commands a lead of approximately 16 points over Cruz in the index’s most recent edition.