How Everyone Is Trying to Sway the Immigration Debate

Immigration reform advocates support an American flag while taking part in a National Day of Dignity and Respect march on October 5, 2013 in Los Angeles, California. Thousands of people marched for comprehensive immigration reform in more than 150 events nationwide.
National Journal
Elahe Izad
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Elahe Izad
Jan. 31, 2014, 7:35 a.m.

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.”

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