Immigration reform groups react after Rubio speaker portrays them as unholy misanthropes

Lopez portrays NumbersUSA as a left-wing group, even though he relies on the “same regurgitated nonsense that the Southern Poverty Law Center uses to try to convince liberals that we are a right wing organization,” she added.

“We’re neither liberal or conservative,” said Bob Dane, spokesman for FAIR. “For 30 years, our jobs has been to represent ordinary Americans who never have a place at the table when immigration is discussed.”

The Lopez pitch also angered some Republicans on the Hill.

“This issue is of too great a consequence to engage in personal destruction at the expense of acknowledging all the facts — that’s what the left does, and conservatives rightly reject that,” said a Republican aide. “All conservatives must be steadfastly wary of any costs of a comprehensive plan, and be open and honest about what those are.”

Jenks also combined a rebuke of Rubio and his staff with a compliment for the senator.

During a 2012 meeting with “Senator Rubio last year, we were impressed with his knowledge and understanding of the immigration issue, and the need to responsibly reform the system. … I have actually defended Senator Rubio and said that I believe he has the best of intentions,” she wrote.

“I feel sort of foolish now for doing that, knowing that he and his staff have been attacking my motives and those of my organization behind closed doors and on conference calls. It is a sad day for our democracy when our leaders prefer to avoid an open debate about serious policy issues by resorting to character assassination.”

The sharp attack on the reform groups — despite the potential they have to help Rubio win a better deal in partisan negotiations — suggests that the GOP’s business establishment is desperate to rush through a bill before the public notices, said one immigration activist. The primary goal for GOP activists, he suggested, is to mollify Hispanic voters before the 2016 presidential race, regardless of the long-term impact.

Rubio’s aides downplayed the clash.

Lopez did not speak at the staffers’ meeting, Conant said, adding that Lopez’s dispute with the three groups “is not our fight.”

“We’re focused on writing actual legislation,” he said.

Jenks’ cautious response reflects the reformers’ reluctance to break with Rubio.

They’d rather work with him to reform immigration law so it helps ordinary Americans, even if they’re forced to compromise and accept some major demands sought by amnesty advocates, such as La Raza or the American Immigration Law Association.

They also want him to keep a political distance from proponents of large-scale immigration, especially Sens. Chuck Schumer, McCain and Graham, and to help him walk away from a deal that doesn’t help Americans, reformers told TheDC.

Their strategy is to bind Rubio to his numerous public promises and commitments to toughen enforcement against border crossers, people who overstay their visas and companies that hire illegal workers.