Immigration lobbies spent $1.5 billion since 2007
A loose alliance of business and political groups has spent almost $1.5 billion since late 2007 to rewrite the nation’s immigration law according to a new report.
The flood of money hired 3,136 lobbyists at 678 lobbying groups to pass one or more of 987 small or large bills, said the March 25 report from the Sunlight Foundation.
“[I]n the five years (2008-2012) since the reform last died on the Senate floor, we count 6,712 quarterly lobbying reports filed by 678 lobbying organizations in 170 sectors mentioning 987 unique bills, associated with more than $1.5 billion in lobbying spending,” the Sunlight Foundation’s Lee Drutman and Alexander Furnas write.
The report corroborates lobbyists’ recent comments to The Daily Caller that business and progressive groups are spending very heavily to pass a joint “comprehensive immigration bill” this year, which could include enhanced guest worker program and some form of amnesty.
One lobbyist said he had been given a surprise offer to promote the new bills, while another said that meetings of experienced immigration lobbyists are crowded with new advocates who know little about immigration law.
“They’re hiring nearly everybody,” the second lobbyist told TheDC.
The Sunlight Foundation’s report, however, does not focus on the 2013 fight, and instead concentrates on the scale and pattern of immigration lobbying. It does not compare funding spent by pro-immigration groups to the much smaller spending by the handful of groups fighting to curb immigration and the influx of guest workers.
Those groups include Federation for American Immigration Reform and NumbersUSA, which want to scale back the annual inflow of roughly one million new immigrants.
“The true stakeholders of what happens with America’s immigration policies — the American public — are left out and left behind as powerful and well-financed industry lobbyists run roughshod over their interests,” Bob Dane, a spokesman for the Federation for American Immigration Reform told The Daily Caller.
“Special interests lobby with their checkbooks … citizens lobby with their votes and terminate the careers of those who neglect their interests,” he added.
The report says that the NumbersUSA group has an annual budget of $6 million, and has hired lobbyists at three lobbying firms.
Federation for American Immigration Reform and NumbersUSA rallied public opposition to defeat 2006 and 2007 immigration bills that were championed by the progressive activists and corporate lobbyists.
Those 2006 and 2007 bills would have granted a conditional amnesty to roughly 11 million illegal immigrants, and also increased the use of guest-workers in restaurants, construction, software, farming and retail.
OpenSecrets says that NumbersUSA spent $600,000 in lobbying in 2012. That’s less than 10 percent of the $8 million spent by one company, Microsoft Corp., which is trying to up its employment of professional guest-workers under the H-1B program.
The number of lobbying firms working on immigration increased to 355 in 2012, up from 317 in 2011, according to OpenSecrets.org.
In fact, the Sunlight Foundation itself is one of the many groups that are partly funded by the Soros Foundation, which is using its money to help pass the immigration bills. Sunlight received $300,000 from Soros in 2010 and 2011.
The Soros group has spent more that $70 million since 2005 to boost groups seeking to increase immigration, according to a February report by WNYC.org.
The Soros-funded “Open Society [group] gave nearly $70 million to immigration advocates in the past eight years … [and other] national funders, such as the Ford Foundation, and the Carnegie Corporation of New York … are putting millions of dollars into work being done of behalf of immigrants,” said the WNYC report.
The groups are trying to pass a “comprehensive” immigration bill that would substantially alter the nation’s current immigration laws. Their strategy involves using business lobbyists to mollify GOP concerns that any amnesty would boost Democratic votes in 15 years. At the same time, progressive advocacy groups are trying to mollify widespread Democratic opposition to imported guest-workers.
According to new reports, the pending bill would allow companies to bring in roughly 600,000 guest workers each year, and also provide work permits and citizenship to 11 million Democratic-leaning immigrants.
Companies are lobbying for the workers to fill jobs in the professional and service sectors, even though 20 million Americans are unemployed, underemployed or given up looking for work.
Currently, opposition from unions that represent skilled workers — such as construction workers — have stalled a closed-door deal between the U.S Chamber of Commerce and the AFL-CIO.
Roughly 90 percent of union members say the reduction of illegal immigration is important to them, according to a Jan. 29-30 poll of 1,000 likely voters by Rasmussen. Only 9 percent of union members said they thought it was not important. (RELATED: Union members split on immigration)
Progressive groups also want the 11 million immigrants to be able to bring in their relatives, including their siblings’ families and their elderly parents.
A March 21 blog post by Sunlight Foundation says that three business sectors “tech, agribusiness and construction — have contributed more than $51 million since 1988 [in donations] to lawmakers who are either on committees with key roles in drafting immigration legislation or who are otherwise closely involved with the bill legislation.”
The blog post links to a Feb. 13 post by the foundation, which said that Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer — the leader of the eight senators drafting the pending 2013 immigration bill — has received $4.86 million from the three sectors.
The Sunlight Foundation’s report does not focus on the political alliance between business interests and progressive groups, and it reveals little about the spending by these progressive groups and corporations.
Instead, the Foundation provides a useful map of lobbying efforts in the complex immigration debate.
It shows how much lobbying effort is being directed toward winning gains for companies that employ agricultural, service-sector and professional workers, as well as progressive groups that want to boost the number of visas for immigrants’ relatives or to win a large-scale conditional amnesty, also dubbed “a path to citizenship.”
It also shows lobbying devoted to wining visas for entertainment industry employees, dubbed “performing artists visas” by the foundation.
Polls show that most Americans want to welcome immigrants, but worry about their impact on white-collar and blue-collar jobs, and would prefer illegal immigrants to go home.
A poll released March 14 by the left-of-center Public Religion Research Institute showed that 56 percent of 4,465 American adults believe immigrants drive down wages.
A February poll for Reuters by Ipsos showed that “thirty percent of those polled think that most illegal immigrants, with some exceptions, should be deported, while 23 percent believe all illegal immigrants should be deported … Only 5 percent believe all illegal immigrants should be allowed to stay in the United States legally, and 31 percent want most illegal immigrants to stay.”
Follow Neil on Twitter