Posted: 2:43 p.m. Thursday, May 23, 2013

John Barrow comes out against immigration bill

By Daniel Malloy
WASHINGTON -- In his first big splash since turning down a Senate campaign, U.S. Rep. John Barrow is tacking to the right on immigration – a sign of both how he intends to hold onto his Republican-leaning district for another cycle and the incredibly shaky immigration reform politics in the House.

The Augusta Democrat today introduced his own bill to beef up security on U.S. borders, while providing periodic Immigration and Customs Enforcement reports to Congress. He compared the Senate bill to the 1986 "amnesty" and declared it “a pig in a poke” – a shell game, if you will – for allowing the Obama administration to dictate the terms of border security while undocumented workers get immediate legal status.

“We’re not going to agree for amnesty now in exchange for a promise to do something about the border down the road, especially a promise that by its very nature is not designed to be kept,” Barrow said.

If those sound like conservative Republican talking points to you, you are not alone. By coming out firmly against the Senate bill now, Barrow is even getting ahead of his state’s Republican senators, who are still examining it. Barrow said if the House “Gang of Eight” bill makes a similar promise, he will not support it either.

Barrow defeated Lee Anderson by 7 percentage points last year even as his district voted for Mitt Romney by 12, and he won’t be able to count on as much friendly turnout from Augusta in 2014. His cross-aisle positioning – including his vote against Obamacare – is part of his brand, and today’s bill is the latest attempt to show that off.

When asked why he was proposing the bill “alone,” as one member of the minority party who is not even on the committee considering the immigration reform bill, Barrow replied: “I don’t know how alone I’m going to be in the House. I know this: I’m not alone back home on this issue. There’s a great concern in this country that there is a bipartisan agreement to do something for the worst possible reasons.”

Georgia's four Republican Senate hopefuls all declared their opposition to the reform plans last weekend in Athens. All nine GOP House members already were unlikely votes for the bill if it ever makes the floor. Barrow’s move here might just have sealed 10 solid nays.