04/25/2013 11:48 am ET Updated Jun 25, 2013

Profiles in Immigration: Chuck Grassley

"I never said that!" screamed an indignant Senator Grassley at Chuck Schumer. What brought these two Chucks to such a point? Unsurprisingly, immigration.

The gun control debate after Sandy Hook took the country by storm, shelfing the immigration debate that the voter demographic breakdown of 2012 demanded until it could be worked out, or, at least turn into a stunning failure of the Senate. What could have elicited such a response from Grassley? "I would say to my colleagues... if you have ways to improve the bill, offer an amendment... I say that particularly to those who are pointing to what happened, the terrible tragedy in Boston as, I would say, an excuse for not doing a bill or delaying a bill for many months or years." While Schumer said he wasn't talking about Grassley, a guilty conscience speaks for itself.

"Given the events of this week, it's important for us to understand the gaps and loopholes in our immigration system" said Grassley recently. "While we do not yet know the immigration status of the people who terrorized the communities in Massachusetts when we find out it will help shed light on the weaknesses of our system. How can individuals evade authority and plan such attacks on our soil? How can we beef up security checks on people who wish to enter the United States? How do we ensure that people who wish to do us harm are not eligible for benefits under the immigration laws, including this new bill before us?"

The middle part is the conclusion he jumped too far too quickly to claim he was thinking rationally: we don't know their immigration status, but we should probably build a bigger border fence just in case. He also came to the conclusion that the individuals had "evade[d] authority," with the implication being immigration authorities, however, they both had legal status within the country and so were on good terms as far as immigration law. Finally, he ends it all by tying the tragedy in Boston to an immigration bill that has nothing to do with any of the issues that led to the bombing, rather, has both Senator McCain (R-AZ) and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano saying it would make us safer.

Being anti-immigrant is nothing new for this Iowa Senator: he voted to cut funds from sanctuary cities; voted no on comprehensive immigration reform; voted yes on declaring English as the official language of the U.S.; voted yes on a border fence; voted no on establishing Guest Worker programs; voted no on giving guest workers a pathway towards citizenship; is rated 100 percent by the U.S. Border Control for a sealed-border stance; is rated A by Americans for Legal Immigration for being strongly against legal status for undocumented immigrants, and this is just a short list of his many anti-immigrant stances. While even Paul Ryan, vice presidential nominee for Mr. "Self-Deportation," has come out for immigration, Grassley is staying the course.

Lately, Grassley has been more outspoken against immigration than usual. This is unsurprising, considering how we are now debating immigration, though at the judiciary committee hearing where he lost his cool it was evident the opposition is a bit desperate: they brought in Kris Kobach (author of SB 1070, later ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court), the Center for Immigration Study (with a stated purpose of reducing immigration to the United States: "Low immigration" is in their motto) and the head of the ICE Union (sort of like bringing a crack dealer to an intervention: his officers literally profit from a "lock them all up" policy).

Nobody wants to touch this issue outside of far-right states with no Latinos like Alabama and Iowa: it's becoming like gay marriage where they have to dredge the far right to even find a lawyer with any public profile willing to argue for the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).

Why would Grassley be doing all this? Simple: he's a political coward that is afraid of being "primaried" one day, and so, knowing that he is in a conservative state that will never vote Democrat, all he has to do to stay in Senate is be a right wing nutjob. In order to do this, he's standing staunchly in the way of civil rights reform.

To put it in a more historical context for my generation of 20-somethings who haven't lived through enough history to properly appreciate this from a civil rights perspective: he's the contemporary equivalent of the last southern coalition fighting for the rights of some "good ol' boys" to crack a black man's skull in the South for trying to vote. Thank God the Senate wasn't in the state it was then that it is now, or we may have never had civil rights reform like the Voting Rights Act.

It wasn't so long ago that Congressman John Lewis was nearly killed in Selma, Alabama, when a police baton fractured his skull as he marched with other organizers. It's no coincidence that many men involved in that struggle have referred to immigration reform as the civil rights struggle of our time, INCLUDING the very admirable John Lewis.

While undocumented immigrants aren't faced with baton-wielding cops on a bridge today, they have dealt with drug cartels, crossing deserts (sometimes alone as children), KKK rallies at their own demonstrations and, despite often living in this country most of their lives, not having the right to vote, work or even remain where many have built their lives and become an important part of their community.

The inability to get even the most basic reforms (i.e. background checks for buying AK-47's on the Internet) because of insecure losers like Sen. Grassley is what drove more moderate Republicans like former Senator Olympia Snow to outright quit, even in the absence of a strong challenger for her seat: she just didn't want the job anymore, guys like Grassley made it too difficult.

One thing is for certain: after the gun vote became a failure that can only be described as "epic," with the filibuster being led by Republicans, Senators like Grassley are toxic to the party: they can't be easily voted out, and they don't need to soften their rhetoric help fellow Republicans now that they're more independently financed. Republicans (and 4 Democrats who voted with them) have very little time to recover their images before 2014 (which may be why Sen. Baucus (D-MT) announced his retirement). Grassley is going to drag his party down at a difficult time to help himself up, and I'm not sure the GOP can do anything but try to bury anything he says with a dozen positive quotes that won't get nearly half the same coverage, or support a primary opponent. What is a GOP to do?