Young immigrants brought to the United States as children and now here illegally would generate an economic lift for Mexico and other Central American nations if they were to return to those countries, Republican Rep. Steve King said Wednesday.
"Maybe the best thing we could do for our neighbors to the South is give them back their talent and restore our rule of law," the Iowa lawmaker said.
King is opposed to a program under former President Barack Obama that granted a deportation reprieve to about 800,000 young immigrants, many of them brought to the U.S. as infants or small children. Many of the lawmakers who support letting the young immigrants stay in the U.S. say America is the only home they know.
President Donald Trump is phasing out the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, but gave Congress six months to act before recipients' work permits begin to expire. House and Senate leaders say they want a legislative solution to extend deportation protections, but prospects are uncertain. Trump told congressional leaders on Sunday that his immigration priorities must be enacted in exchange for extending the protections.
Trump's list of demands included overhauling the country's green-card system, a crackdown on unaccompanied minors entering the country, and building his promised wall along the southern border.
King, a hardliner on immigration, said the president is using DACA as a bargaining chip to get the enforcement priorities he spelled out over the weekend.
"I think it's a dangerous place to go because we could end up with amnesty and not having kept his promise," King said. "... I'm about restoring the respect for the rule of law and there is no way you can reward lawbreakers, DACA, and simultaneously restore the respect for the rule of law.
King likened the young immigrants protected under DACA to Peace Corps volunteers. He said they would be "going home with a free American education and going home with knowing what a country that functions pretty close to right looks like."
"What would 700,000 Dreamers do in their home country? It would be an economic development lift for Mexico and Central America," he said.