The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Rep. Paul Gosar wants ‘illegal aliens’ arrested at the State of the Union. That probably won’t help the GOP with Latinos.

President Trump's position on DACA has taken several twists and turns over the years. (Video: Meg Kelly, Claritza Jimenez/The Washington Post)

Democratic lawmakers and activists frustrated with the pace at which Congress is moving on protections for “dreamers,” undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as children, often point to fears of deportation. Stories of undocumented immigrants being arrested at courthouses while seeking protections from crimes or meeting with officers to apply for legal residency have only stoked those fears.

Now they may also have to fear the chambers of Congress, with one conservative lawmaker confirming their anxieties ahead of the State of the Union speech Tuesday night.

Rep. Paul A. Gosar (R-Ariz.) tweeted that he contacted the U.S. Capitol Police and Attorney General Jeff Sessions to ask law enforcement to consider checking the identification of all attending the State of the Union address. The hard-line conservative even called for arresting “any illegal aliens in attendance.”

“Of all the places where the Rule of Law needs to be enforced, it should be in the hallowed halls of Congress. Any illegal aliens attempting to go through security, under any pretext of invitation or otherwise, should be arrested and deported,” he continued in tweets.

The move was in response to the decision by as many as 50 Democratic lawmakers who have reportedly invited dreamers and other undocumented immigrants to Trump's first State of the Union.

Rep. Debbie Dingell (D.-Mich.) is bringing Cindy Garcia, who is the wife of Jorge Garcia, a 39-year-old father who was brought to the United States as a child and lived here for more than 30 years before being deported to Mexico.

“The Garcia family’s story is heartbreaking and infuriating. It is both a symptom of a long-broken immigration system and a new rash immigration policy that does not recognize the difference between a hardworking family man and a criminal. This must change,” Dingell said in a statement.

This isn't the first time Gosar's extreme immigration views have surfaced; the Arizona congressman is known for posting studies on social media claiming that dreamers are responsible for sizable percentages of crime in his home state.

According to AZCentral:

In separate posts, Gosar also wrote, citing Lott's report, that “DACA-aged illegals” accounted for "15 percent of all Arizona manslaughters,” "14 percent of all sexual assaults each year” and “nearly 14 percent of all first-degree murders in Arizona.”
All of Gosar's posts were made under the headline, “Getting to know DACA-aged illegals,” even though most undocumented immigrants with criminal records are not eligible for the DACA program.

Trump's own record on protecting dreamers is mixed. While launching his presidential campaign, Trump accused immigrants from Mexico of being rapists and murderers. The brief government shutdown earlier this month arguably happened in part because of Trump's reluctance or lack of clarity on what he wants for the dreamers. That, and his “shithole countries” comment.

Liberal lawmakers have accused the president of leveraging the dreamers as “ransom” to restrict legal immigration, calling it a wish list for “anti-immigration hard-liners” and “white supremacists.”

Gosar's view of dreamers is inconsistent with that of most Americans, including many voters in his own party: The majority of Americans support protections for dreamers. 

Sen. Jeff Flake, another Arizona Republican, has repeatedly clashed with his own party for advocating protections for dreamers, but Gosar's views have significant support among his constituents. He won nearly 70 percent of the vote in his last reelection.

Shortly after Gosar's statement, a Twitter battle ensued between the two lawmakers on the issue.

House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) told journalists he doesn't support Gosar's suggestion to arrest undocumented immigrants attending the speech. The question that remains: Does the president?

The GOP under Trump has been criticized, even from some within the Republican Party, of leaving the “compassionate conservatism” that former president George W. Bush campaigned on in the past. GOP lawmakers being silent about Gosar's suggestion risks giving the impression that Republicans don't even want dreamers present who are eager to hear Trump's vision for America. For a party that is struggling with Latino voters, Gosar's rhetoric probably doesn't move the GOP in the direction of winning more of their support. This aggressive approach to immigration reform could cause a party to lose votes in the midterm elections with the majority of Americans who are sympathetic to dreamers and their families.