Rep. Raul Labrador (R-Idaho) is emerging as the House’s leading conservative voice against an immigration reform that includes a path to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented immigrants currently in the United States.
This became more apparent Thursday when he participated in an immigration panel at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), the largest annual gathering of conservatives. He stressed during the one-hour panel discussion that he doesn’t support legislation that would allow undocumented immigrants to become legal permanent residents or citizens.
Undocumented immigrants should get in line for residency, citizenship
Instead, the 45-year-old Puerto Rican said he favors legislation that would give undocumented immigrants a legal status. He explained this could be accomplished through a robust guest worker program that would allow undocumented immigrants to seek nonimmigrant visas to stay and work.
“Anyone who wants to become a legal permanent resident or a naturalized citizen of the United States is welcome to apply, but the key is that they must follow the same procedure that will be available to all immigrants,” he said during the panel discussion titled “Respecting Families and the Rule of Law: A Lasting Immigration Policy.”
In other words, undocumented immigrants who seek a legal status or citizenship would have to return to their country of origin and apply to legally come to the U.S. Immigration reform advocates who support a direct path to citizenship reject that idea, saying that process takes years.
But Labrador said Thursday, “It would be a travesty, in my opinion, to treat those who violated our laws to get here much better than those who have patiently waited their turn to come to the United States the right way.”
On border security, Labrador said the fences across the southern border must be completed. He also called for more interior enforcement, such as implementing an employment verification program and allowing local law enforcement agencies to work with federal agencies to crack down on illegal immigration.
Rep. Labrador blasts Democrats on immigration reform
Before Thursday’s immigration panel, Labrador had been largely optimistic about efforts to work with Democrats to garner support for immigration reform in the House.
But on Thursday, Labrador blasted the Democratic Party for siding in 2007 with labor unions that opposed a portion of that year’s immigration reform bill focused on guest workers. He said Democrats knew that siding with the labor unions would eventually kill the bill but did so anyway.
“The Democratic Party has a problem right now,” he said during the panel discussion. “They have to pick between their two favorite children: The Hispanic groups and the labor unions. Every time they have to make that decision between those two groups, they actually pick the labor unions every single time.”
The AFL-CIO responded to Labrador’s remarks blaming labor unions for the failure to pass an immigration reform in 2007.
“It is astonishing that Raul Labrador, who to this day is unclear if he supports a realistic roadmap to citizenship for people who are Americans in every way except on paper, would blame unions for scuttling immigration reform in 2007,” AFL-CIO spokesman Jeff Hauser told National Journal.
“The very same hateful right-wing talk radio that propelled Labrador’s beloved Tea Party to power in 2010 made legitimate, pro-immigrant reform impossible in 2007,” Hauser added. “Labrador should disavow hateful allies rather than attacking the working people who are fighting across the country for a roadmap to citizenship.”