Rep. Steve Israel (D-NY) defied the GOP members of the House of Representatives on Monday to stand up to their tea party constituents in the wake of recent developments promising a deeper bipartisan push on immigration.
“What this comes down to now is, will these House Republicans, who have pandered to their intolerant tea party base, who have fed into the extremism of that tea party base, are they willing to stand up to the tea party and do what’s right for America?” Israel asked “Jansing & Co.” guest host Richard Lui. “We’ll see whether they’re able to amass the votes to get us forward.”
At least one tea party favorite, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), was part of the group of eight Republicans and Democrat lawmakers who unveiled a bipartisan immigration plan on Monday, which they said would provide a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants provided that security at the U.S.-Mexico border met unspecified guidelines.
The announcement came a day before President Barack Obama’s own proposal, scheduled to be revealed on Tuesday in Las Vegas, Nevada.
“They might say, this is amnesty,” Lui said, suggesting a possible counterargument. “What would you say?”
“I’m interested in solutions,” Israel said. “I’m not interested in rhetoric, and I’m not interested in finger-pointing and I’m not interested in the old debates and the old soundbytes. We need a solution that is fair and balanced — that secures our borders, that has tough verifiable enforcement, but also provides a path to citizenship for those who are here and part of our economy.
Lui also brought up opposition by union leaders to one feature of the group’s proposal: a guest-worker program designed to help farm laborers.
The AFL-CIO, Lui said, argued that such a program would “institutionalize, basically, a second-class workforce that can be exploited by employers.” Israel emphasized that the bipartisan plan is a starting point.
“This is not going to be perfect,” Israel said. “Immigration is a very difficult problem to solve. Nobody’s going to be entirely happy at the end of the day, but if we can arrive at a bipartisan solution and make it as good as possible, it would be a heck of a lot better than the broken and dysfunctional system that we have now.”
While the AFL-CIO has opposed past legislation by Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), who worked on the new plan with Rubio, union leaders said they support a citizenship track for immigrant workers, and accused Rubio of painting them to the contrary out of political gamesmanship.
“For Sen. Rubio to be attacking unions for standing with immigrant communities, which is what he’s essentially doing, is neither just nor the politics that will address the GOP’s demographic cliff,” the organization’s director of immigration and community action, Ana Avendaño, told The Huffington Post last week. “It’s really time for us to stop playing politics with this issue. It’s much easier to point the finger at someone than to start doing the really hard work that it’s going to take to change the law that so badly needs fixing.”
Watch Israel’s interview with Lui, aired Monday on MSNBC, below.