Western Iowa Congressman Steve King hosted a conversation about illegal immigration this (Monday) morning in Des Moines. King, a Republican from Kiron, brought in the father of a 9/11 victim who’s pushing the federal government to crack down on illegal immigration as well as a couple of congressmen who focus on the issue.

“We need a national debate on immigration and this is the place to set the groundwork for it here in Iowa and that’s what we’re attempting to do here today,” King told reporters. Iowa’s role as the state that hosts the first test of the next presidential campaign is the reason. “This is about presidential politics. I make no bones about it,” King says. “I want Iowans to understand immigration policy and I want them to challenge the presidential candidates when they get here and ask them the hard questions.” King wants to spend nearly 700 million dollars to build a fence along the country’s southern border.

Jim Gilchrist, founder of the Minuteman project which organized volunteers to patrol the U.S./Mexico border, spoke after King. “There’s something very seriously wrong with our neighbor to the south, Mexico, where half its 100 million population wants to migrate to the United States, whether it’s legal to do so or not,” Gilchrist says. He would support a revolution in Mexico, where he says ordinary people are being exploited by a ruling class and that fuels their desire to leave. “There’s no Mexican dream, but there’s an American dream, so let’s go there,” Gilchrist says. Gilchrist says if “enclaves” of non-English speaking illegal immigrants continue to set up residence in various communities, the United States will no longer be united. “Not tomorrow, not in a couple of weeks, maybe 40, maybe 80 years we will literally fracture into several countries,” Gilchrist said. “I don’t want that as a future.”

Arizona Congressman J. D. Hayworth said every night about four-thousand illegals cross into Arizona. “What confronts us is not just a problem nor is it simply labeled a crisis. It is a full-scale invasion,” Hayworth said. “If our goal is to secure America’s future, we must start by securing America’s borders.”

Peter Gadiel had a 23-year-old son die in the World Trade Center on September 11th, and he’s formed a group called 9/11 Families for a Secure America. “Open borders, illegal immigration and failure to screen legal aliens coming to this country was responsible, in large part, for what happened on 9/11,” he said. (Photo above shows Congressman King introducing Gadiel) Gadiel says the federal government has been guilty of “intentional negligence” because leaders have looked the other way in order to help American businesses get cheap labor. Gadiel says in the past three decades, Congress and American presidents — including President Bush — have refused to confront the problem of illegal immigration. “My point of view…is simply this: the members of Congress knew this was a problem…It is clear since 9/11 and they have refused to act,” Gadiel said. “They are guilty of contributing to the deaths of our loved ones.”

After this morning’s forum in Des Moines, the group headed to western Iowa and the day will conclude with a rally and hog roast tonight in Council Bluffs. The Iowa Democratic Party issued a statement calling King and his guests extremists and radicals who seek “hate and discrimination.”