House Republicans aren't even considering an actual immigration reform bill — just a one-page document with a bunch of somewhat vague principles — and already folks on all sides are showering lawmakers with memos to sway opinion.
Alabama's Sen. Jeff Sessions, an outspoken critic of the Senate's comprehensive immigration bill, has been working behind the scenes to discourage his Republican counterparts in the House from tackling reform. He distributed a memo to fellow Republicans before the House GOP retreat this week. It declares that "Republicans must end the lawlessness — not surrender to it." The 30-page document has a "fact vs. myth" section and includes "objective polling data — not misleading polls from special interests."
Those wanting reform have been passing out their own memos. FWD.us, the pro-immigration reform group backed by Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, has sent a document to all House Democrats and Republicans, including those huddled at their annual retreat, a FWD.us spokesman confirms. And that memo slams some groups as "anti-immigrant" that are "reflexively opposed to any attempt to fix our broken immigration system." It refers to "hateful rhetoric, extreme views, and blatant falsehoods."
"We're encouraged that House Republicans have put forth draft principles to guide their approach to immigration reform and want to make sure all members have polling, research, and relevant resources in the coming weeks as they work to craft legislation," the FWD.us spokesman said in a statement. "Relevant resources includes factual information that many of these members may not have about the origins and real motivations of some of the loudest anti-immigrant groups."
FWD.us was founded in 2013 in an effort to bolster the prospects of comprehensive immigration reform, and it spent $600,000 on lobbying.
While outside groups and even senators will have a measure of influence over what members in the House end up doing on immigration reform, they're not the ones actually casting the votes. Perhaps the most telling signal of the upcoming House debate can be found in the reactions to the GOP draft principles from members of House Democratic leadership. Simply put, they're not shutting the door on Republicans.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said her caucus "welcomes" the release of their draft, which excludes a pathway to citizenship and instead calls for legalization. "As Republicans unveil more specifics of their legislation, we hope we can find common ground with our Democratic principles — to secure our borders, protect our workers, unite our families, and provide an earned pathway to citizenship," she said.
So, sure, they have their differences, but Pelosi's remarks are a world away from those of people like AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, who called the draft "a flimsy document that only serves to underscore the callous attitude Republicans have toward our nation's immigrants."