Rep. Benjamin Quayle said Wednesday that it was “absurd” for President Obama to assert that the U.S.-Mexico border is secure.
“There has been some progress … and a lot of it has to do with fencing, with increased border patrol agents. [But] the Tucson area is still in disarray,” the Arizona Republican said during an interview on The Washington Times-affiliated “America’s Morning News.”
“Our constituents down in southern Arizona, our ranchers down there, continually see illegal trafficking, human trafficking, drug smuggling through their property,” he said.
Mr. Quayle was one of a number of Republicans from border states pushing back Wednesday against President Obama’s speech Tuesday in El Paso, Texas, urging Congress to start working on a new immigration overhaul. Republican leaders have argued that reform cannot move forward while the border remains insecure.
Rep. Michael T. McCaul, Texas Republican, said Wednesday that, “Before we start talking about reforming our immigration policy we need to prioritize our national security and gain operational control of the border. Despite the president’s rhetoric that he has gone ‘above and beyond’ to secure the border, this mission is not accomplished.”
Rep. Elton Gallegly, California Republican and chairman of the House Judiciary subcommittee on immigration policy and enforcement, said the president’s proposal was another call for “amnesty.”
“It is unfair to the 26 million American workers who are unemployed or underemployed and it is unfair to those who are waiting to legally immigrate to the United States,” he said in a statement.
Rep. Lamar Smith, Texas Republican, said “The president is right that we are a nation of immigrants, but we are a nation of legal immigrants.”
Mr. Quayle said most Republicans are adamantly opposed to offering a path to citizenship for those who entered the country illegally.
“I don’t think the Republicans in the House will stand for any sort of broad amnesty for those who have crossed into our country illegally,” he said.
Amnesty “sets the wrong example for those who are waiting in line and doing the right thing and trying to go through the process legally,” Mr. Quayle said. “We should be encouraging people to come here and immigrate to this country legally. We’re a country of immigrants.”
The president also urged Congress to resurrect the Dream Act, a bill that would make citizenship easier for illegal-immigrants brought into the country when they were minors.
Illinois Sen. Richard J. Durbin, the Senate’s No. 2 Democrat, reintroduced the bill Wednesday.
“These young people … are American in every sense except their technical legal status,” he said in a statement. “These children are tomorrow’s doctors, nurses, teachers, policemen, firefighters, soldiers and senators, and we should give them the opportunity to reach their full potential.”
A companion bill was introduced in the House by Reps. Howard L. Berman, California Democrat; Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Florida Republican; and Luis V. Gutierrez, Illinois Democrat.
Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz urged Republicans to join Democrats in passing immigration reform “as soon as possible.”
“Democrats can’t bring about immigration reform on our own,” she said.