Rep. Raúl Labrador was treated to a rude surprise on Tuesday when he appeared on conservative pundit Laura Ingraham’s radio show to talk up his tea party credentials as part of his longshot bid to become the next House majority leader.
Instead the Idaho Republican — who has worked hard over the last eight months to block any House action on immigration — was attacked by the host for being too pro-immigration.
Labrador blamed President Barack Obama’s “lawlessness” for the recent influx of thousands of unauthorized children, saying they “absolutely” need to be deported “immediately.” He said he strongly opposes “amnesty” for undocumented immigrants but called for fixing the legal immigration system with a guest worker program.
“We do need to have a guest worker program,” he said.
That’s when things got heated. Ingraham asked Labrador to sign the so-called FAIR pledge to restrict new flows of immigration — legal or illegal — into the country, and he declined, saying he supports legal immigration.
“So you’re where [Eric] Cantor is, because he won’t [sign it] either,” Ingraham retorted.
Labrador defended himself: “I have made it very clear for the last year that we shouldn’t even have a bill for immigration reform in the House of Representatives. I was the first one who said that. I said that publicly.”
Ingraham shot back: “Their wages are flatlining and their standard of living is deteriorating and yet you want to bring in more guest workers and foreign workers into the economy. Why? … So the Americans are too lazy — they’re not creating any jobs? We just need foreign workers?”
“You’re just wasting your time and you’re squandering your conservative bona fides in the process,” she said.
Labrador’s grilling by Ingraham — who helped whip up opposition to Cantor over immigration reform — revealed how little room Republicans have to address the issue before they begin to anger the right-wing faithful. Early last year, the second-term congressman worked with a bipartisan group to arrive at an immigration reform deal, but he quit over disagreements about legalizing undocumented immigrants. Since the government shutdown in October he has repeatedly pushed Republicans to refuse to act at all on immigration this year.
Labrador and Ingraham ended the interview on a positive note, with both of them noting that they agree on the vast majority of issues.