Immigration Reform in One Room, Bedbugs in Another
The GOP's split take on undocumented immigrants and immigration.
April 18, 2013— -- On Capitol Hill this Thursday, a group of Democrats and Republicans showcased their new immigration bill to a slew of reporters and backers.
Members of the group -- known as the Gang of Eight -- smiled and maintained a chummy banter as they pitched the largest immigration overhaul this country has seen in 50 years, a piece of legislation that would create a path to citizenship for the country's 11 million undocumented immigrants.
Meanwhile, a smaller gathering was taking place in another Senate building nearby, this one led by Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.).
The topic? Same -- immigration reform. But with a different message.
"We should work to figure a way to be compassionate and fair to people who have been here a long time," Sessions said after the press conference. "But I don't believe that the nation has any moral -- and certainly no legal -- obligation to provide someone who entered the country illegally every benefit you would give somebody who came legally, so I don't think citizenship should be given."
In the Senate, Sessions has emerged as one of the chief opponents of the immigration reform bill, even though it has the support of some veteran Republican lawmakers like Lindsey Graham (S.C.) and John McCain (Ariz.), as well as party ascendant Marco Rubio (Fla.).
While the Gang of Eight talked about securing the border, remaking the legal immigration system and bringing undocumented immigrants out of the shadows, the group put together by Sessions, which included a union leader for federal immigration agents, criticized the lack of immigration enforcement under the Obama administration, which has deported record numbers of immigrants.
One speaker, Sheriff Tom Hodgson of Bristol County, Massachusetts, spoke of undocumented immigrants as a burden on his community.
"Illegal immigrants are creating public health hazards, public safety concerns," he said, "living in homes, one-room apartments with three families, taking mattresses off the streets that are infested with bedbugs, filling our emergency rooms for lack of a better care and costing the taxpayers millions and millions of dollars."
Next to the conversation taking place among the Gang of Eight, the sheriff's rhetoric felt like a throwback to another era of conservative ideology on immigration.
But as the debate heats up, you should brace yourself for more of this -- it worked for conservatives in 2007 and some appear to be embracing the same strategy again this time.