When Ryan Lochte won his gold medal a few weeks back, there was lots of talk about what a proud moment it was for our country - as there is whenever America wins in the Olympics. He has three gold medals, one silver, and two bronze. He wears the American flag on his sleeve (and, famously, on his teeth, too). He's an American. And he's a second-generation immigrant - the son of a woman who emigrated from Cuba.
Looking at Team USA in London, we see more than 30 immigrants and many more second-generation immigrants. Team USA medal winners also includes runner Sanya Richards-Ross (originally from Jamaica), and gymnast Dannell Levya (born in Cuba) - their stories are only possible because of immigration.
These champions return to our country and see games of a different sort going on - elected officials stooping to the worst kind of politics, spreading fear and misinformation about immigrants, and enacting harmful anti-immigration policies that hurt American families and kill American jobs.
Those politicians are playing games, and it's time they get some attention for it.
With this in mind, Immigrants' List (America's premier pro-immigration reform PAC) is proud to unveil the inductees into the third annual National Hall of Shame -- a list focused exclusively on the ten worst anti-immigration politicians in Congress.
Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the winners of the Anti-Immigration Olympics:
Joe Walsh - Gold Medal in Embarrassing His Constituents. Tea Party darling Joe Walsh (R-IL) earns a Gold Medal in saying stupid things (for instance, suggesting that his double-amputee war veteran campaign opponent wasn't a "true hero"), and immigration is no exception. President Obama's decision to stop deporting undocumented kids was roundly praised, but Joe Walsh called him a "tyrant" for the decision, and then said that Obama "isn't smart enough to know what that means." This follows an earlier letter that Congressman Walsh wrote to the president, in which he said, "a moat might be a very good idea and I'm wondering how many alligators it would take to secure the entire border."
John Boehner - Gold Medal in the Blame Game. We're not quite clear what planet John Boehner (R-OH) lives on. He voted against the DREAM Act, and after becoming Speaker, made Steve King, Lamar Smith, and Elton Gallegly the House's top leaders on immigration issues. He even said he couldn't pass the Marco Rubio's DREAM-less version of the DREAM Act. And who does the Speaker blame for his lack of progress? President Obama. For the ability to contort the facts, evade the truth, and somehow land on his feet, John Boehner wins a Gold Medal in the Blame Game.
Marco Rubio - Gold Medal in Hucksterism. What makes Senator Rubio (R-FL) different from other anti-reform members of Congress? Nothing really, but because he's the son of Cuban immigrants (and the only Latino Republican in the Senate), the media treats him like a moderate on the issue of immigration. And he's not. His only "accomplishment" on the issue is writing a version of the DREAM Act that took out the "dream" part - preventing a pathway to citizenship to any young undocumented American. He cites Reagan as an inspiration, but unlike Reagan, he doesn't support a pathway to citizenship. For this, Marco Rubio has earned a Gold Medal in Hucksterism.
Chuck Grassley - Gold Medal in Killing Jobs. Everybody knows that in this economy, working families are having a tough time. And most people would agree that we need the two parties to come together for common sense reform that creates jobs. One of those reforms is to increase the number of highly-skilled, well-educated immigrants to boost America's economy. In the House, both parties agreed to bipartisan legislation to eliminate per-country quotas on green cards (the bill passed 389-15). But then Chuck Grassley (R-IA) blocked the bill to prevent it from being discussed in the Senate because he doesn't want more immigration. If his goal was to improve the economy, Chuck Grassley failed miserably. That's why he wins the Gold Medal in Killing Jobs.
Lamar Smith - Silver in Misusing the Constitution. You'd think the chair of the House Judiciary Committee would respect the fact that the Supreme Court struck down the majority of Arizona's anti-immigration law. Instead, Lamar Smith (R-TX) angrily alleged that the Supreme Court's ruling will "end... immigration enforcement" altogether. Further, Smith claimed that President Obama has "encouraged more illegal immigration." It's disheartening to hear such nonsense from the Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee - one of the most influential voices in Congress on immigration.
David Vitter - Silver in Anti-Immigrant Rhetoric. After the Supreme Court ruled most of the Arizona immigration law unconstitutional, Senator Vitter (R-LA) didn't buy it, expressing his profound disappointment in the Court. As for the President's announcement that undocumented children won't be deported any more, Vitter tried to put the decision to bed, slamming it as "blanket amnesty." Perhaps this shouldn't come as a surprise, considering he ran a campaign ad in 2010 criticized as re-defining "race-baiting" and setting a new standard for "most vile anti-immigrant" rhetoric.
Jeff Sessions - Silver in Saying Stupid Things. Alabama's worst-in-the-nation immigration law found a supporter in Senator Sessions (R-AL). Asked about the thousands of undocumented kids were too scared to show up for school, Sessions said that it wasn't sad. Sessions slammed the decision to stop deporting undocumented kids as "mass backdoor amnesty" that has "declared to the American people that [Obama] is determined to... circumvent the will of the people."
Elton Gallegly - Silver in Embarrassing His Constituents. For the past 21 years, Rep. Gallegly has been trying to eliminate birthright citizenship, including amending the US Constitution. He also proposed eliminating certain federal funding for states which issue driver's licenses (or government IDs) to undocumented Americans, and tried to prevent undocumented children from receiving healthcare.
Ted Poe - Bronze in Saying Stupid Things. In one of the most ridiculous speeches ever on the House floor, Congressman Ted Poe compared immigrants to grasshoppers, and argued we should control immigration like we control insects. He's ridiculous outside of the House floor, too, describing the deferred action program for DREAMers as "very disturbing [and] not in the President's power."
- Steve King - Gold Medal in Being Out Of Touch. Whether defending dog-fighting and animal torture or gutting food safety protections, Iowa Republican Steve King set the standard for being out of touch. This summer, after President Obama announced that he'll stop deporting young undocumented Americans, Rep. King announced that he will sue to force the government to continue deporting children. It's difficult to imagine statements more out-of-touch than King's comparison of immigrants to livestock, or his belief that America should model our immigration system after "dog breeding."