Rep. Louie Gohmert: How Conservatives Defeated the Amnesty Bill
A tireless defender of America takes us inside the battle for immigration sanity at Restoration Weekend.
Below are the video and transcript to Congressman Louie Gohmert’s keynote address at the David Horowitz Freedom Center’s 20th Anniversary Restoration Weekend. The event took place Nov. 13th-16th at the Breakers Resort in Palm Beach, Florida. ****
Rep. Louie Gohmert: Wow, you all are amazing, but even more amazing, my wife just stood up too. Wow, Kathy. So thanks, Kathy. I don’t remember seeing you stand up and clap for me before, but thank you. Anyway, I have been looking so forward to being with you this weekend. You would think after a great victory like we had Tuesday, you know, we’d all be so fired up, but you know we did have a great victory Tuesday night, but we’re up against a president that doesn’t observe the sanctity of the Constitution, and he doesn’t believe in following the law if he doesn’t like it, and he has, at his disposal, the largest, most expensive criminal defense firm in the whole world. You know it as the Department of Justice. But wow, what a defense firm he has, and they protect him at all cost.
So I know there have been times that you, from talking to so many of you, you’ve been down like John and I have, like Jeff and I have, but we’re not giving up, but sometimes you just go what do we gotta do? How do we win? How do we stop this thing that just is so big and so mean, so dishonest, and I thought about that whole story, and none of y’all except Kathy knew my late mother. She was brilliant. She loved to tell stories, and because she was so smart and she was so funny and told such great stories, I asked her one time, what lineage do we have? Do you have any Jewish blood? What do we got? And she said – yeah ‘cause she’s so smart and tells such great stories – and she said, well son, on my side of the family we’re a Duke’s mixture. I said, oh, I like the sound of that. What does that mean? She said well it means if we were in the dog world, you’d be called a mutt. Oh, well not so good.
But anyway, so sometimes I remember old stories mom said. But I was thinking about, gosh, how do you beat this big, mean thing, and thought about the guy who had genetically alter-bred this incredible dog, big as a Great Dane, meaner than a Rottweiler and Pit Bull, all these lines in this dog, and he had a standing offer of $1,000.00 for anybody that could whip his dog, anybody had a dog that could whip his dog. Nobody’s dog could whip his dog. One day he gets a knock on the door, and he opens the door, and a little elderly lady said I’m so sorry but my dog has killed your dog, and he said yeah, right, that didn’t happen. She said, no I’m really serious. And he said, well, what kind of dog do you have? And she said, she’s a Pekinese. He said, yeah there’s no Pekinese that’s ever gonna kill my dog, and she said, well, no he’s, he’s dead, it just – so how would your little Pekinese have killed my dog? And she said, well, she got stuck in his throat. Anyway, sometimes you may lose one of your group but you can take these folks out, you know? So you just can’t give up hope. And I tell you even before the election this past week there was a neat victory.
Now, if you go back a year and a half, our Republican leadership had been saying they didn’t want to use the word “amnesty,” but basically that we were gonna pass a bill that legalized people that were here illegally. We had to do it. We could start with the so-called “DREAMers” and when they say DREAMers, they’re not talking about your children, my children, those who sit in school, study hard, have great dreams of doing great things. No, they’re talking about people whose parents bring them or send them illegally into the country, and they just forget about the children that are here that had dreams of their own, dreams besides being overwhelmed with indebtedness and massive bureaucracy that pries into every area of their private lives. Those aren’t the dreams these guys are talking about. But there was a small group of us that started meeting back spring of 2013 because our leaders were saying basically we needed to do some kind of what we knew would be amnesty, whether they called it that or not. And they wanted it done by May of 2013, and we were able to continue rallying troops around the country like you – contact your Congressmen, contact your Senator – and I’m telling you, it’s no better feeling than to know you got not just a great soldier, you have a soldier, a warrior and a leader in the Senate like Jeff Sessions and our friend Ted Cruz.
So hopefully this will be a little bit of encouragement to you. It was a total frustration to me until the very end of the week. But we have been able to put off having any kind of legalization bill, and our Speaker hired John McCain’s staffer. They’ve been working on amnesty for years and years, and so that caused some concern amongst some of us. And it was pretty sharp. The Speaker appointed seven people to a task force who were going to put all of our principles that we would want to see in an immigration bill on paper and come to a consensus, something that all the Republicans could agree on. And they actually did a pretty good job. They did better than pretty good. It was a very good job, and I could agree on all of them. A couple of them were pretty esoteric BS, but basically they were principles we could all agree on. You know, things like, if you come in illegally then you must be deported and forced to come back legally. I mean just basic stuff.
So everybody in our conference agreed on the principles. They were good principles. And yet people were being whipped, you know, in other words, asked how are you gonna vote on the bill, and we had a majority of our conference that said, based on our principles, I’m 100 percent, I’ll vote for a bill that’s based on our principles. Some of us had the gall to say, yeah, I agree on the principle, I really need to see the bill. Could I see the bill? We won the majority in 2010, and I would bet that every one of our Republicans that got elected in 2010 at one time or another said you put us in the majority, we’ll read the bills. But well, gee, if they’re based on our principles, we ought to be covered, right? But let us see the bill. But Tuesday of the last week of July before the August recess – and I hope y’all don’t end up being some of those, you guys ought to be working through August. Look, as I told my dear friend, I love him like a brother, Eric Bolling, “Eric, I heard you berating Congress because we’re not in session more days of the year. Are you nuts? You really want us in session more days of the year?” I mean the best days in Congress are the week we come back after a month of being in our district being fussed at. Those are good days. You know, ‘cause everybody’s fresh from being fussed at. That’s good. That’s a great way to run Congress. So it’s the last week, Tuesday. They’ve got a majority of our guys that I’m voting for the bill and you guys need to get on board, and it got kinda nasty for people that were saying I’d really like to see the bill, please.
Well, Tuesday evening we got a copy of the bill that we were gonna vote on Thursday. Now you might say, wait a minute, you got it on Tuesday, it was filed and you’re voting on Thursday. You guys promised that you would have 72, never vote on a bill that wasn’t filed for less than 72 hours. Well if you look carefully at what our leadership promised, they said three days. Some of us interpreted that to mean 72 hours, but they took the approach that Christians take on Jesus being crucified on Friday and on the third day, Sunday, resurrected. So I think that’s fine to count it that way from the Bible, but some of us really need more time than that to read a bill. A day and a half really doesn’t do it.
So anyway, I read the bill. I finished at 2:00 a.m., and I do highlighting on my computer, but I like a hard copy, and I’ve got my highlighter, I’ve got my black pen for notes in the margin and interlineations, and then I’ve got my blue pen for things I want to spot real quick when I pick it up, and so I’m making notes, I’ve got underlining, highlighting, all this stuff. I laid down for three hours, got back up at 5:00, re-read it; yep, it was as bad as I thought it was. And some of it I didn’t even catch on the first reading. But one of the principles we agreed on is, for example, the over 90 percent that don’t show up for an immigration hearing, they should be deported. Well there it was at the bottom of Page 18. It said if an immigrant fails to appear for his or her hearing, the immigration judge shall immediately issue an order of deportation. Well, as a former judge, you didn’t show up for a hearing, you were out on bond, I immediately issued a warrant for your arrest. People would get arrested and I found generally they’re quicker ready for trial when they’re in jail than when they’re out gallivanting. One of those things.
So anyway, I thought, okay that adheres to the principles, but then instead of being a little dot called a period, there was a space and the two-letter word “if.” If? If what? Well, you turn the page and over at the top of 19 it says the government is successful in proving that the immigrant’s failure to appear was the immigrant’s fault. What? Yeah. See you guys weren’t even judges and you picked that up. But you have to read that. Well what does that mean? That means it’s a de facto amnesty provision because it you’re an immigration lawyer advising a client who has come in illegally, you say look don’t ever appear for a hearing, and if you don’t, and in fact don’t leave a forwarding address, go somewhere different than where you first went because if you don’t ever show up, the worse they can do is issue another notice to appear that you’ll never get. They can never prove it was your fault ‘cause, gee, you didn’t know. So just keep failing to appear. I mean it’s a de facto amnesty in that one little provision.
Well, there were things like that throughout, and one that really got my attention – a first-degree felony in Texas you can sentence not only to 99 years or life but you can also add up to a $10,000.00 fine. Well, that’s not so much in this world, and then here was a provision that immigration judge in order to enforce any order the immigration judge feels appropriate, necessary, can assess and enforce any amount of fine that he felt appropriate. Yeah, okay so say you’re here in Palm Beach. Well, gee, this is a pretty wealthy area so maybe it needs to be a million dollars a day until we get them to rezone, whatever. And rezoning that’s in some of the HUD block grants. Now that’s a whole other issues. But there were these things throughout that were a little bit scary. And so the next morning, a few of us were meeting, and I’d made a few copies of my notes ‘cause Michele Bachmann said, hey, can we get copies of your notes? We don’t have time to go through this like you did. So I passed those out and said, fine, use them however. And by the time I thought of it, Rush was going on the air, ‘cause I thought we need to get this out to people that can tell the public. And I knew if I emailed it to Shawn he didn’t have time to read it before his show started.
So I thought about one of the smartest guys in the country, guy named Mark Levin, and so I emailed it to Mark with a PDF copy attached so he had all my notes and stuff, and said, Mark, here’s the bill they filed. We need people being educated across the country as to exact words to what it says. He emails right back, says, Louie, I don’t have time to read this bill before my show. And then about ten minutes later he goes, oh, I’m finding your notes. Oh this is great, I can do this. And that night, Mark didn’t mention my name, but by golly he went through that bill page by page and just ripped into all those different sections where there were just major problems. So across the country, millions of people were getting the idea, wow. They heard the actual language, and just like you, you figured out that’s not good. That’s not what we believe in. That’s wrong.
And so people started burning up the phone lines. Numbers USA, Tea Party Patriots, all these groups were calling their representatives, and on Wednesday, one of our leaders told me they had the votes to pass it on Thursday morning. John and I were already there, but we started having people from other states saying, hey, I just had to go tell the Speaker I know I said yes, but I thought it was in accordance with our principles, and my phone line’s burning up. I got a primary coming up in Tennessee or here, there, and then I also had a number of people from Alabama and Mississippi who said Senator Sessions has really made it uncomfortable. Our constituents are upset and they don’t want me to vote for this bill, and if I go against Senator Sessions I’m probably not going to win another. I mean, isn’t that awesome? I mean, isn’t it great to have that kind of warrior over there?
So they began debate on the bill, and shortly after they began debate on the bill, they had lost dozens of people. They never would tell us how many they lost; they couldn’t pass the bill. So the Speaker is ready to just say, well, obviously we’ll never be able to pick up all these lost votes so we might as well go home. But a bunch of our members said, wait a minute, let’s have a conference and talk about it. So 3:00 p.m. we had a conference, and the majority said, look, obviously there are people here that have read this bill and know what we need to do to fix it. Instead of being out for the month of August and going home with our tail between our legs, let’s let the people that know what’s wrong with this bill get in a room and fix it so we can vote on something decent before we go home.
One of the things I didn’t catch on the first reading, that we all agreed on as a principle: if a state calls up its own National Guard to help secure the border, then the federal government should reimburse them. There was a provision in there that said that. I didn’t catch it on first reading because it cited a federal law that allowed for the National Guard to be called up, but it was the provision that required the Secretary of Defense to approve the calling up before you could get reimbursed and any reimbursement had to be approved by the Secretary of Defense. I didn’t read that law the first time. I didn’t realize that it sounded good, sounded like it did what we wanted, but it didn’t. It was a de facto amnesty bill.
That night a bunch of us got in a room, about 12 to 15, for about 2 ½ hours. We knocked out 18 of the most offenses pages that would have made it de facto amnesty. We got in some good, tight language and at 10:00 p.m. the next night, Friday night before we recessed for the month of August, we passed a decent border bill. And it was because Americans were paying attention and let their Congress members know this isn’t what we want to do.
Now I know it took a long time to tell you that, but I wanted to tell you that so you understand you can still make a difference. We can still keep disastrous things from happening. Now we were told if we passed this, the Senate will never take it up ‘cause it’s so tough. If I were Harry Reid, I would’ve taken it up like that, if we’d passed it, ‘cause it would’ve hamstrung us and been a de facto amnesty. You know the question was asked, who wrote the original one? I asked that question, and I said if it was the staff member that got hired from John McCain’s staff then I’m very concerned because I know the Immigration Subcommittee did not write this. I know that’s a subcommittee under judiciary. I know judiciary did not write this. I wanna know who it is. And we never were given the answer.
Audience Member: So we’re fighting the Democrats and our own Republicans?
Rep. Louie Gohmert: Well now – she’s saying we’re fighting the Democrats and our own Republicans. Well, yes, I guess that’s true. But I wanted to give you a little encouragement and by the same token encourage myself. ‘Cause I need encouragement. So I’m telling you encouraging things so hopefully it’ll encourage me. ‘Cause this has been a bummer of a week. I’m running for Republican State Committee Chair and even one of my dearest friends yesterday said, you know, Louie, and he literally said that I think you may be the smartest guy in Congress, but you are such a firebrand. You stand up in conference, you tell ‘em how it is, you’re such an honest man. You stand up alone and you’re not afraid of doing that, and we really need to keep you there. So I’m not supporting you for RSC Chair. He said, but you’re like a Jeremiah, you just tell it like it is. I said, so basically you want me as a Jeremiah to continue yelling out in the wilderness by myself instead of helping us get where we need to go? Well, no I wouldn’t say it that way. Well, I would.
But anyway, so it’s been a frustrating week. I’ve looked forward to being here. Let me just add a couple things to encourage you. Tom may be here this morning but Judicial Watch and Breitbart hired Kellyanne Conway to do really accurate polling. They weren’t trying to skew people. They weren’t trying to get the answer they wanted. They wanted real answers. Where did the American people stand that have gone out and voted on Election Day and the accurate numbers. When asked whether illegal aliens should receive discounted in-state tuition rates, subsidized by taxpayers, 76 percent of the voters disagreed with that, 65 percent strongly. Among minorities, 58 percent of blacks, 59 percent of the Hispanics disagreed with that. How do you lose on that issue? You know by doing what we believe is right. A majority of voters, 58 percent, believe we should enforce current laws that require illegal immigrants to return to their home countries. How do you lose when that’s our position? That’s what we got elected to do. Some reason our leadership doesn’t get it, but thank you for getting it, and I’ve got excerpts from what the media’s calling the “new law” that our Monarch spoke into being yesterday, and the purpose is, from the State Department, I’m quoting, “provide a safe, legal and orderly alternative to the dangerous journey that some children are currently undertaking to the United States.” How about telling them don’t take the dangerous journey? Huh? Wouldn’t that be a better policy? But it doesn’t begin until December of 2014, and you can request a refugee – and I’m reading this, this is State Department words – “refugee resettlement interview for unmarried children under 21 in El Salvador, Guatemala or Honduras. The second parent may be added to the child’s petition and considered for refugee status and if denied, refugee status be considered for parole. Approved refugees will be eligible for the same support” – y’all know that means money, right? – “provided to all refugees resettled in the United States.”
So it is a disastrous policy and that is just the start. It’s important you’re here because this is the kind of place where we can get our thoughts together. We talk together, we’ll be around and we can strategize how we stop this disaster to the country. And just remember – and we got great people here that I need to shut up and let take over – but keep in mind it’s absolutely true, the old saying in Washington: no matter how cynical you get, it’s never enough to catch up. Thank you.
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