The Dangers of Steve Scalise

Steve Scalise, now the third-highest ranking Republican in the House.
Steve Scalise, now the third-highest ranking Republican in the House.

The election of Kevin McCarthy to House Majority Leader last month brought a relative moderate to that important position. But McCarthy’s successor as House Republican Whip, the third highest position in the Republican House leadership, is someone who has not shown much moderation on the issue.

The new Whip, Steve Scalise, is from Louisiana’s First Congressional District, which covers the heavily-Republican areas surrounding New Orleans. In his time in Congress he has taken a hard line on immigration restriction.

Scalise’s official Congressional website forthrightly states his utter rejection of contemporary comprehensive immigration reform efforts. He “is opposed to giving amnesty to the millions of illegal immigrants currently living in our country,” according to the site. He describes undocumented immigrants as criminals for entering the U.S. without permission and says that he “does not want to reward those who have committed a crime” with legal status. He says that “amnesty programs will only encourage more illegal aliens to cross our borders” and he describes them as people who “drain our nation’s resources.”

Scalise has also misrepresented the terms of the comprehensive immigration reform bill passed last year by the Senate, saying that “the Senate bill would force [undocumented immigrants] to become American citizens and that’s not even what they want.” Of course the bill would force no one to become a citizen.

Scalise does not simply oppose undocumented immigrants, he also has a problem with those who are here legally but who don’t speak English well. He is the co-sponsor of a bill called the English Language Unity Act, an English-Only bill. It would prohibit most outreach by the Federal government in languages other than English and hurt those with limited English proficiency in a variety of ways. The bill would also make becoming a citizen much harder by requiring that naturalization applicants be able to read and understand the Constitution and Declaration of Independence in their original 18th Century language. This was the sort of requirement that was used in his native state 50 years ago to keep blacks from voting.

It might help if the Congressman studied the Constitution himself, though. He is the co-sponsor of a bill denying birthright citizenship to the children of undocumented immigrants. Of course, the Constitution provides for birthright citizenship, so a mere bill cannot take it away. Congressmen ought to be required to read the 14th Amendment to the Constitution before they talk about birthright citizenship.

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Patrick Young blogs daily for Long Island Wins. He is the Downstate Advocacy Director of the New York Immigration Coalition and Special Professor of Immigration Law at Hofstra School of Law. He served as the Director of Legal Services and Program at Central American Refugee Center (CARECEN) for three decades before retiring in 2019. Pat is also a student of immigration history and the author of The Immigrants' Civil War.