Jay Bookman

Opinion columnist and blogger with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, specializing in foreign relations, environmental and technology-related issues

Steve King has a heart as hard as a cantaloupe

Twenty years ago, Ana Zamora came to this country as an infant. She was raised here; her siblings were born here. She works as a receptionist at a hotel in Dallas while she finishes her university degree, and plans to seek a masters in business administration.

As you may have surmised, Ana was brought here illegally. As one of the so-called "dreamers," she is one of the beneficiaries of President Obama's deferred deportation plan, which allows those brought here illegally as young children to gain temporary legal status while we work out their ultimate fates.

“The United States is my country,“ she wrote in a letter that she mailed to Obama, thanking him for the change in policy. "It is where I grew up, took my first steps, learned to read, write, play, graduated from high school, and will graduate from college.”

As a result of that policy, “I am finally a person in the United States,” she wrote. “I have a Social Security number, an employment authorization card and a driver’s license to drive the car I pay for with my own money (which I earned working with my employment authorization card) and pay taxes as any law-abiding U.S. citizen. I could not be more proud of myself!!!"

Now let's bring U.S. Rep. Steve King into the story. As you may know, he's a hard-core conservative Republican from Iowa who has likened the process of sifting through potential immigrants to this country to the process of selecting which dogs to breed. He has also described this as a "Christian nation", "proving" that contention by arguing that if you accidentally kill your neighbor's dog, confess to doing so and seek forgiveness, you will be granted that forgiveness and be redeemed.

However, King has no intention whatsoever of extending those Christian concepts of compassion and redemption to those "dreamers" who came here illegally, including those such as Zamora who had no choice in the matter. Even if they confess, even if they pay back taxes and fines as reparation, he wants no part of them.

"For every (dreamer) who’s a valedictorian," King has infamously argued, "there’s another hundred out there who weigh a hundred and thirty pounds—and they’ve got calves the size of cantaloupes because they’re hauling seventy-five pounds of marijuana across the desert."

So when King discovered that young Ana Zamora, calf-size unknown, had been invited to sit with Michelle Obama at this week's State of the Union address, he responded in the spirit of human compassion and acceptance for which he is so well-known:

Within today's Republican Party, he is a power broker whose ring must be kissed. He, not John Boehner, dictates the course that the GOP House will take on immigration. When the House recently voted to strip Ana Zamora and others of their temporary status and once again target them for deportation, they were following King's lead.

Certainly, some elements of the Republican Party are uncomfortable with the influence wielded by King and others like him. But his positions are so popular among the party's base that most who seek to lead the GOP are more inclined to court than to challenge him, and as long as that's the case, the cause of bipartisan immigration reform is hopeless.


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About the Author

Jay Bookman writes about government and politics, with an occasional foray into other aspects of life as time, space and opportunity allow.