Responding to criticism about his comments on immigration reform for 11 million “undocumented citizens,” a spokeswoman for Congressman Buck McKeon, R-Santa Clarita, said the comments weren’t intended to be offensive, but part of a larger conversation on the need for immigration reform.
The comments, which circulated around the Internet including several prominent political blogs after McKeon’s visit to Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 10049 in Simi Valley included the following:
“There are people that can’t tell the difference between a Hispanic person and an Arab person,” McKeon said. “If you get an Arab person that’s trained and coming into this country to be a terrorist, they can mingle in and they can get in here and then they can do damage.
“So, I would secure the border. I would come up with a program to make everybody here — and you say 11 million, but we don’t know how many (undocumented citizens) are here, and we need to find out, we need to find a way to make everyone legal, give them some kind of status to bring them into the system, whether it’s for six months, or 12 months, and then we have to follow the system.”
Lee Rogers, McKeon’s presumptive opponent in next year’s election should McKeon run for a 13th term, called the comments “insensitive” to Latinos and those of Arab descent.
“Certainly, a secure border helps to make us safer,” Rogers said on his Facebook page. “But xenophobic comments like these stoke unnecessary fears and discrimination against law abiding U.S. residents and immigrants.”
The comments were meant to address the problems with the current system and the need for reform, both of which McKeon recognizes, said Alissa McCurley, McKeon spokeswoman.
“The last thing Congressman McKeon meant to do was cause any offense, but was rather having a larger conversation on the importance of achieving real immigration reform legislation that actually addresses the critical problems with our current system,” McCurley said, “and about how having porous borders is more than just an immigration issue, it is a national security issue.
“An overwhelming majority of people who enter this country come to provide themselves and their families opportunities through hard work and a chance at the American Dream. But, unfortunately, there are many who will exploit any perceived weakness and will enter this country with criminal intentions.”
Recent statements by the White House point out numerous problems with the nation’s immigration policy, perhaps nowhere more affected than California, where 2.6 million undocumented citizens are believed to be living.
“America’s immigration system is broken,” according to a White House statement. “Too many employers game the system by hiring undocumented workers and there are 11 million people living in the shadows. Neither is good for the economy or the country.”
In a 68-32 vote on June 27, the U.S. Senate voted to pass a bill to overhaul U.S. immigration policy. But the legislation faces major obstacles in the House, with GOP leaders vowing to move on their own bill.
“llegal immigration would only drop by 25 percent under the Senate plan,” said House Speaker John Boehner, R-West Chester. “And I’ll just tell you, that will not cut it.”
McCurley said McKeon was planning a trip to the Santa Clarita Valley during the summer recess, but she did not have the dates available.
The next congressional session for the House of Representatives resumes Sept. 9.