Weekend open thread, with more links on Steve King and immigration reform

What's on your mind this weekend, Bleeding Heartland readers? This is an open thread.

Representative Steve King's views about a path to legal residence for undocumented immigrants continue to make national news. Follow me after the jump for more comments and recent reports.

Last Sunday, King repeated his claim that proposed immigration reform would legalize drug smugglers. The full transcript of King's "Meet the Press" appearance is here. Think Progress excerpted the fireworks between King and Republican strategist Ana Navarro. She suggested he "should get some therapy" and is "a mediocre congressman with no legislative record and the only time he makes national press is when he comes out and says something offensive about the undocumented or Hispanics."

In his defense, King repeated an argument I remember from his debates against Christie Vilsack last year: he is supposedly one of the most effective members of Congress, measured by amendments successfully passed.

"According to Jeff Flake's analysis, I am third in the number of amendments offered in Congress over the last decade and of those I have had the highest level of passage of those amendments," the Iowa Republican said in an interview with CNN's Kate Bolduan. "So if you look at objective data that came out of now Sen. Flake's 's office, I might be the most effective congressman there rather than a mediocre congressman there." [...]

A spokesperson for Sen. Jeff Flake's office said the analysis King cited is now outdated.

"It was an internal analysis done by our office that is no longer current," Bronwyn Lance Chester said in an email.

I don't consider King effective, but you have to admit it's a victory that his faction was able to get the upper hand in the House debate over immigration. Six months ago, some pundits believed comprehensive immigration reform was inevitable because Republicans must improve their standing with Latino voters. Yet House Speaker John Boehner gave hard-liners his word that he won't bring up any immigration bill not supported by a majority of the House GOP caucus. The U.S. Senate's immigration reform bill drew fourteen GOP yes votes but clearly doesn't have the support of a majority of Congressional Republicans.

King is spending part of the August recess holding anti-"amnesty" rallies in other states to bolster House Republican opposition to citizenship or even legal residency for undocumented immigrants. Politico's Seung Min Kim covered the August 12 event in Richmond, Virginia, "in the backyard of Majority Leader Eric Cantor."

He began his nearly half-hour speech here arguing against immigration reform, claiming societies tend to become more violent as one moves farther south in Latin America.

"Now think what that is," King said to the 60 or so attendees at the rally. "If you bring people from a violent civilization into a less-violent civilization, you're going to have more violence right? It's like pouring hot water into cold water, does it raise the temperature or not?" [...]

King told POLITICO that he wasn't directing a specific message toward his leadership, despite entering Cantor's home turf. He just believes that he is a man standing on principle while many of his fellow Republicans "have had a spell cast over them" following the 2012 elections, in which the GOP took a drubbing among the Latino electorate.

(WATCH: McConnell says immigration bill has 'serious flaws')

"A year ago, almost everybody in my conference agreed with me," King said in an interview. "There's been no spell cast over me."

Last month, the bishop of the Sioux City diocese expressed his disappointment with King for speaking about "migrants in a way that undermines their human dignity and the respect owed them as children of God." All four Iowa Catholic bishops issued a statement about immigration reform on August 14.

The Catholic bishops of Iowa have released the following statement on immigration reform:

Once again, Congress is considering the reform of our country's broken immigration system.

Many immigrants have been forced to leave their homes and countries in order to provide even for the most basic needs of themselves and their families. The desperation of their circumstances does not correspond to the inordinate length of time (sometimes over 15 years) required to wait in line for the present system to process a visa request.

We believe that those already here, for the sake of family unity and being humane, should receive special consideration that would include eventual citizenship. We support measures that help secure our border but respect human rights and human life. We need a system that is humane for workers and fair to employers.

While Catholics may disagree within the limits of justice on the specific approach to reforming the immigration system, we must agree as a people of faith to live out the scriptural commandment to "welcome the stranger" and defend the God-given dignity of every person.

We urge all Iowans to remember their history as immigrants as we work together towards a fair and compassionate resolution of this problem. We encourage members of the Catholic community to contact their members of Congress this month, especially in the House of Representatives, in support of immigration reform legislation consistent with the principles of justice. One easy way to do this is to visit www.justiceforimmigrants.org and send a message to your member of Congress to encourage him to move the process forward.

Most Rev. Michael Jackels, Archbishop of Dubuque

Most Rev. R. Walker Nickless, Bishop of Sioux City

Most Rev. Martin Amos, Bishop of Davenport

Most Rev. Richard Pates, Bishop of Des Moines

The bishops' statement is available in Spanish here.

Radio Iowa's O.Kay Henderson pointed out that Iowa's nuns have also spoken out for immigration reform:

A year and a half ago, nuns from 10 religious orders in the region paid to put pro-immigration reform billboards up in Cedar Rapids, Clinton, Des Moines, Dubuque, Sioux City and the Quad Cities. The billboards took a passage from the Gospel of Matthew and substituted the word "immigrant" for "stranger" so the verse read: "I was an immigrant and you welcomed me."

The Iowa Catholic Conference has long advocated state-level policies to improve the treatment of immigrants, both documented and undocumented.

Getting back to King, the Democratic-aligned House Majority PAC and its "Stop the Tea Party" wing have sent numerous e-mail blasts highlighting King's remarks about immigrants. Some are fundraising e-mails, while others are list-building exercises (asking voters to sign petitions demanding comprehensive immigration reform). House Majority PAC is actually a super-PAC rather than a standard political action committee. The group ran several television commercials against King during the 2012 campaign, but it's not clear yet whether they will target IA-04 next year. Perhaps they are trying to capitalize on King's reputation as a guy Democratic donors and activists love to hate. I didn't think their tv ads were particularly effective anyway.

Christie Vilsack is now working for USAID's Bureau for Economic Growth, Education and Environment. I didn't know anyone who expected her to run for office in Iowa again, but for what it's worth, she formally endorsed King's Democratic challenger Jim Mowrer this week.

Vilsack's former campaign manager, Jessica Vanden Berg, told a Des Moines audience earlier this month that her candidate would have been elected in 2012 if she'd run in IA-03 rather than in IA-04. I am skeptical. If Vilsack had run in the third district, perhaps she would have beaten Leonard Boswell in the primary, but then she would have had to run against entrenched Republican incumbent Tom Latham. Bleeding Heartland user blooding h has argued that Vilsack would have lost fewer votes to third-party candidates and believes she would have done as well as President Obama in rural counties, based on her performance in IA-04. But that was against Steve King, a highly polarizing figure. Vilsack's entire case to voters from beginning to end was: vote for me because I'm not rude and attention-seeking like Steve King. Well, Tom Latham's not rude and attention-seeking either. And unlike King, Latham strongly outperformed the top of the Republican ticket in 2012.

The path for Christie Vilsack to get elected to Congress was in IA-02. Yes, she would have had to take on Democratic incumbent Dave Loebsack in the primary, but after that she'd have had a clear path against Republican John Archer in a Democratic-leaning district where she had strong roots.

Final note: Immigration policy has kept King in the news lately, but he's made plenty of other unfounded statements, as Bleeding Heartland user cocinero discussed here. Among other things, King is still a proud climate change denier. Think Progress posted more comments and some video from King's appearance at an event sponsored by Americans for Prosperity, which cocinero attended.

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