Pence’s reminder on immigration policy

PENCE’S REMINDER ON IMMIGRATION POLICY…. Interesting exchange on “Meet the Press” yesterday about immigration policy, between host David Gregory and House Republican Conference Chairman Mike Pence (R-Ind.). (Media Matters has the video.)

GREGORY: But this is an interesting point because, Congressman Pence, the president came out and said, you know, there was some debate about whether immigration would be an agenda item that he would push before energy legislation. He said this week there simply aren’t the votes for it, particularly from Republicans.

PENCE: Well, well, let, let’s be clear for a second. This is no laughing matter for the people of Arizona who are — have been profoundly affected by the fact that there’s nearly a half a million illegal immigrants and, and a rampant drug trade and, and, and human trafficking trade that’s been besetting. Phoenix, Arizona, is, is the kidnapping capital of the United State of America. I don’t know if this law is perfect, but I knew — do know that it is wrong for officials in this government to throw stones at the people of Arizona as they’re trying to, to reassert the rule of law in the wake of the fact that this administration and this Congress have been systematically cutting funding to border security since the Democrats took control.

GREGORY: Of course, it was Republicans who blocked comprehensive immigration reform. Let’s be clear about that.

Just at face value, it’s good to see Gregory do a little on-air fact-checking.

On a more substantive note, the correction itself touches on a problem for conservative Republicans in Congress. In recent weeks, they’ve been quick to defend efforts like the one in Arizona as somehow understandable — federal officials haven’t fixed the nation’s immigration laws, so state action is hardly unreasonable. So, it stands to reason, then, that Republicans are anxious to work with Democrats on passing comprehensive immigration reform? Well, no. GOP lawmakers blocked immigration reform in the last Congress, and they’re prepared to block it again in this Congress.

There’s an obvious disconnect here. Pence and his Republican colleagues are arguing, simultaneously, that more needs to be done at the federal level and more doesn’t need to be done at the federal level.

What’s more, Pence said it’s a “fact” that the Obama administration and congressional Democrats “have been systematically cutting funding to border security.” I hate to be a stickler, but it’s worth emphasizing the fact that the stimulus package included $680 million for U.S. customs and border protection, and Republicans still voted against it.

Postscript: Just as an aside, I also enjoyed the thrust of Pence’s argument yesterday — that Democrats aren’t spending nearly enough money. Good to know.

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Steve Benen

Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.