Rep Pete King (R-N.Y.) says he’d back a “path” to citizenship for the country’s undocumented immigrants, but only with stronger security provisions than in pending Senate legislation.
At a May 30 constituent forum in Brentwood, first reported on by sponsor and immigration advocacy group Long Island Wins, King offered this comment heard in an event video posted online:
“As far as if we do have security — and I feel that it’s never going to be 100 percent — but as close to full security as possible for the future, then I believe we should legalize those that are here,” King said. “If you’re here legally, there should be a path to citizenship and so to that extent we’re on the same page.”
King clarified the comment Tuesday to the Daily News, specifically the “here legally” qualifier, stating that he backs a path for country’s roughly 11 million otherwise law-abiding undocumented immigrants.
The former House Homeland Security Committee Chairman would not, however, back pending Senate legislation that would start the clock on a 13-year “path” provided only that the Department of Homeland Security draft a plan for improved border security.
“We should have legislation that has solid security,” King said.
The Senate bill requires other “triggers” later along the path, including full verification of visa-holder exits at air and sea ports and universal employer verification of workers’ legal immigration status.
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) a member of the “Gang of 8” senators including Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), lobbied House conservatives Wednesday to support reform with stronger security provisions.
Rubio, who has conceded that the bill couldn’t pass the Republican-led House as is, has suggested legislating border security measures rather than letting DHS conceive them.
King’s committee last month passed a bipartisan standalone bill that would give DHS six months to draft a new border security plan, two years to establish control of “high traffic” areas and five years to control the whole border, relying heavily on technology.
The House’s own “Gang of 8” has yet to introduce its own comprehensive immigration bill, and King predicted last week that when and if the Senate moves a bill, “the process will pretty much start over again” in the House.
Floor debate on the Senate bill is expected to begin next week and Schumer said he hopes for passage by July 4.
King said he favors the “path” strategy “rather than have 11 million people remain in a vacuum.”
That places King in agreement with House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) but at odds with more conservative members like Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) who opposes the “path” and chairs the House
Judiciary Committee, which is responsible for reporting out immigration legislation.
Javier Valdes, co-executive director of Make the Road New York, which cosponsored the Brentwood forum, said that the balance King described between security and legalization is feasible.
“We think that there is a path forward where we can achieve both goals, and we look forward to doing that,” Valdes said.
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