Immigration battle fades as Republicans look to 2014

The last GOP member in the House’s “Gang of Eight” immigration-boosting panel has predicted the House would ignore the divisive issue before Christmas.

The thumbs-down signal comes as GOP leaders and conservative advocates step up their efforts to develop and sell various reform-minded conservative policies and Republican candidates to a larger swath of voters. Those targets include middle-class Latinos, blue-collar whites and Latino workers who would likely be hurt economically by any increase in low-wage immigrants .

Florida Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart Caballero was the last of four GOP members in the bipartisan gang, which tried to draft a major rewrite of the nation’s immigration law. The rewrite was expected to include some form of amnesty for 11 million illegal immigrants, plus rules allowing companies to bring in hundreds of thousands of foreign guest-workers each year.

The effort gradually fell apart amid much public opposition. Two GOP members quit in September, saying they could not trust President Barack Obama to negotiate or implement any deal.

On Thursday, Diaz-Balart told the Washington Post, “I don’t think we’re going to be able to do it this year.” The delay likely dooms any immigration rewrite, because it would push the House vote into an election year when members are very loath to start an emotional fight with their own voters.

He’s still trying to pass an immigration rewrite, he said in a statement to The Daily Caller. But “we only have 16 days left in the legislative calendar this year, and I don’t think it will be done before that,” the statement said.

Diaz-Balart’s declaration suggests that the GOP’s leaders have decided not to push through an immigration rewrite before the 2014 election.

His concession follows a hugely expensive lobbying blitz by progressives, high-tech companies and agricultural firms, which was strongly aided by favorable reports in the establishment media.

The lobbying campaign persuaded swing-voting senators to support a major bill in June that would provide green cards to 33 million immigrants by 2023. If approved by the House, the Senate bill would bring in three new immigrants and one new guest worker for every four Americans who turn 18, despite the steady drop in the employment of American natives since 2000, and a parallel drop in wages.

Numerous polls show the public is opposed to amnesty and to an increased inflow of workers, especially during the current period of accelerating automation, declining wages and high unemployment.

Diaz-Balart’s concession ”is good news,” said a Hill staffer. It shows that GOP reformers are successfully defeating the immigration push, which would reduce Americans’ wages and increase blue-collar voters’ dependence on government, he said. “Now the GOP needs to understand that the path to winning minority votes is not an immigration bill but a working-class freedom agenda buttressed by sensible immigration controls,” he said.

GOP leaders and advocates are already drafting various proposals.

“Progressives have become the party of Wall Street, K Street and Pennsylvania Avenue [and] we must become the party of Main Street, everywhere,” Utah Sen. Mike Lee declared in a October speech at the Heritage Foundation. He also urged the GOP to develop new plans that help Americans help themselves. “The day will come when Republicans need a health-care plan [but] today we need ten of them,” he said.

Sen. Jeff Sessions, the GOP leader of the Senate’s budget committee, argues the GOP will grow by boosting Americans’ wages. “The GOP lost the [2012] election because it hemorrhaged support from middle- and low-income Americans of all backgrounds… [a] humble and honest populism… would open the ears of millions who have turned away from our party,” he wrote in a July memo to his fellow GOP senators.