COLUMBIA, Tenn. (AP) — Republican U.S. Sen. Bob Corker on Thursday criticized members of his own party for launching political attacks against those trying to overhaul immigration laws.
“I get really frustrated with people on my side of the aisle who say that anything you do on immigration is amnesty,” Corker said after a speech to civic groups in Columbia. “I saw it play out in these congressional races, where people were actually trying to solve the problem, and the only word people used was amnesty.”
Corker challenged audience members to raise their hands if they believed the government would “round up 12 million people and take them back where they came from.”
When no one raised their hand, Corker argued that it is incumbent on elected officials to address the issue.
“I just hope that we don’t let demagogues prevail, and that we finally deal with this issue and put it behind us,” Corker said.
Corker said he voted for a Senate immigration bill in 2013 after sponsoring what he called the key amendment to boost border security and double the number of patrol agents. The proposal would have remade legal worker programs and offered a path to citizenship to people now living here illegally.
But Corker stressed that under the bill it would have taken 15 years to go through the process of gaining legal status, and that it also would have denied federal benefits to anybody in the country illegally for 10 years.
“I don’t know, is that amnesty?” he said. “Or is amnesty what we’re doing right now?”
The bill ultimately stalled in the Republican-led House where Speaker John Boehner blamed GOP distrust of President Barack Obama to enforce any law for the inaction.
Boehner on Thursday said Obama would “burn himself” if he pursues executive orders to curb deportations of immigrants who are working yet living illegally in the United States. Corker echoed those sentiments in his talk in Columbia.
“There’s no question the president has undermined any real attempt to solve this immigration issue because of what he’s done by executive order, it’s a fact,” Corker said. “It’s unbelievably disappointing.”
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