Rep. Steve King (Credit: Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call/Newscom)

Rep. Steve King (Credit: Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call/Newscom)

Opponents of amnesty are turning up the pressure on House Republican leaders as they discuss potential next steps on immigration reform at their annual retreat today.

“Every day we discuss immigration,” said Representative Steve King (R-IA), “that helps Barack Obama change the topic from Obamacare.”

King and Representative Michele Bachmann (R-MN) have voiced concern about the GOP leadership’s recent embrace of immigration reform, which is expected to be one of the most contentious issues to play out this week in Cambridge, MD.

Before departing for Maryland’s Eastern Shore yesterday, Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL) delivered a 30-page critique of the immigration principles under consideration by Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) and his leadership team. Sessions reportedly told the 232 members of the House GOP to “end the lawlessness — not surrender to it.”

For lawmakers like King and Bachmann, amnesty for illegal immigrants is one of the greatest challenges facing the party — and also threatens to distract from the most-pressing issues of concern to voters, such as jobs, the economy, and health care. Immigration consistently polls at the bottom of those lists.

“How will we deal with this issue of amnesty for illegal immigrants?” Bachmann said at Conversations with Conservatives earlier this month. “Every time this issue has come forward, it’s remarkable. The American people have been clear about where their position is on this issue.”

She added, “Everything we do [should] help the working people of the United States.”

King warned his colleagues they were falling into a trap by engaging on an issue that distracts from Obamacare.

“If you wonder what [Obama] is doing when he presents minimum wage, the unemployment extension, and the immigration issue, he is changing the topic from Obamacare,” King said at Conversations with Conservatives.

As one of the participants at the GOP’s Cambridge retreat, King said he hoped to amnesty opponents would have an equal opportunity to present their views to colleagues — something he complained hasn’t always happened in the past:

There have been at least three times in this past legislative year that there have been an intense immigration discussion that has been presented in such a way that those who disagreed had wait at the end of the line to talk to the empty room about changing their mind. We don’t need that to happen in Cambridge.

If there’s going to be a discussion behind closed door amongst our Republican conference family, it needs to be set up with equal opportunity for both sides of that discussion to air this thing out. And I’d like to keep it inside those door, not out in the press.

With the buzz building around immigration, The Heritage Foundation’s Derrick Morgan suggested lawmakers first focus on upholding America’s existing immigration laws before sending a controversial amnesty measure to Obama’s desk.

“Given the President’s disregard for enforcing the law and changing the law without going back to Congress,” Morgan said, “policymakers have no real reason to trust the President to uphold any new immigration laws.”

>>> Learn More: A Positive Path to Immigration and Border Security Reform

This story was produced by The Foundry’s news team. Nothing here should be construed as necessarily reflecting the views of The Heritage Foundation.