The Daily Caller

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              House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio, left,  joined by House Budget Committee Chairman Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., takes reporters  House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio, left, joined by House Budget Committee Chairman Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., takes reporters' questions, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Dec. 11, 2013, as House Republicans signaled support for a budget deal worked out yesterday between Ryan and Senate Budget Committee Chair Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash. The budget deal was one of a few major measures left on Congress' to-do list near the end of a bruising year that has produced a partial government shutdown, a flirtation with a first-ever federal default and gridlock on President Obama's agenda. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)   

Boehner sets immigration debate, but polls show growing public opposition

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Neil Munro
White House Correspondent

Currently, the federal government invites in roughly 1 million immigrants and 650,000 non-agricultural guest workers each year to compete for jobs against American high school and college graduates.

The Senate immigration bill, passed in June, would approve the amnesty, and roughly double annual immigration and the inflow of guest workers. The resulting inflow of foreign workers would far exceed the total of 28 million teenagers in the United States, and likely shift several seats after the 2020 census to Democratic-dominated states. The inflow would also shift more of the nation’s wages away from voters and toward donors, exacerbating the economic inequality that Obama recently called “the defining issue of our time.”

Some House leaders want to increase the inflow of guest workers. For example, a judiciary committee bill would allow the food industry to bring in 500,000 foreign workers each year, even though 4 million Americans youths begin looking for work every year.

Various polls show any increased inflow of workers is very unpopular in many parts of the United States.

The hostile shift shown by Qunnipiac may be a surprise to top GOP leaders and their pollsters, some of whom have been hired by business groups to test amnesty-related messaging that ignores the incendiary issue of increased migrant labor. For example, a Jan. 14 report by National Journal claimed that “the biggest threat to Republicans on immigration is in the primaries anyway, strategists say. No one will lose in the general election because they are too soft on immigration.”

The shift among independents is a problem for Tom Donohue, president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. On Jan 8, he promised to “pull out all the stops” to pass a bill similar to the Senate’s bill.

After his speech, he dismissed worries that an amnesty and guest-worker bill would curb turnout for GOP candidates.

“I’m not worried about GOP turnout because you know who’s going to win this election? Independents,” he told The Daily Caller.

An immigration deal is important to business, especially in the food sector. Companies want to cut payroll costs for high school and university graduates, and also avoid the cost of investing in labor-saving machinery, such as American-made cow-milking robots.

Business is very concerned that their staffing plans will be disrupted by changes in the routine inflow of new immigrants and guest-workers.

GOP leaders want to provide some certainty and predictability to the business guys, but also want to grab the initiative so that the immigration debate is shifted from a focus on the foreigners’ preferences towards policies that help actual Americans, said a person knowledgeable of the situation. For example, the GOP would like to shift the mix of immigrants away from people who get green cards via family connections, and toward people who get visas because of their skills, the person said.

House conservatives, however, are already staking out that populist position, which can help defang Obama’s 2014 campaign strategy.

GOP leaders are also watching the Democrats to see if they’re willing to cooperate with the Americans-first shift, or whether they will maximize their amnesty demands in the hope of ginning up ethnic strife that will send angry Hispanics into the November booths.

Boehner wants a realistic strategy for passage of a good bill, and also to show respect to Hispanic voters who live in nearly all GOP members’ districts, the person said.

Immigration, however, is a very low priority for most Americans, including swing voters.  The January Quinnipiac poll showed that only 5 percent of voters, 10 percent of Hispanics, and 5 percent of independents think immigration should be the most important issue in 2014.

Ten percent of reliable Democratic voters said it is the most important issue.

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