Politics

Conservatives Battle GOP Leaders On Immigration

Photo of Neil Munro
Neil Munro
White House Correspondent

The GOP leadership’s new immigration bill shows that top Republicans won’t fight against the Democrats’ unpopular immigration policies, even when the public overwhelmingly agrees with the GOP, say several GOP-affiliated conservatives.

The GOP leaders’ bill is so favorable to President Barack Obama that it is the political equivalent of “catching your opponent’s Hail Mary pass and running it into your own end zone for them,” said Daniel Horowitz, the policy director for the Madison Project.

The leaders’ immigration bill will be voted on Thursday, and most rank-and-file legislators are expected to support the bill.

The Central American immigration influx has sparked protests in places like Murrieta, Calif., and downtown Boston.

Groups such as NumbersUSA and the Federation for American Immigration Reform, are rallying GOP-friendly voters to call Capitol Hill to protest the bill. Polls show Obama’s support on immigration has dived down to 18 percent, and strong opposition is at 57 percent.

Amid the protests, some conservative legislators are opposing the bill as a giveaway to Democrats. There are enough of those conservatives that GOP leaders worked late into the night of Thursday to win enough votes to reach 218 votes.

The leaders’ bill is unpopular among conservative activists because it would increase and accelerate low-skill migration from Latin American, create a new opportunity for Democrats and business lobbyists to revive the Senate’s 2013 immigration rewrite, and do nothing to deter President Barack Obama from carrying out his plan to distribute millions of work permits to illegal immigrants, say conservatives.

The bill would also allow the Democrats to shift the increasingly painful blame for the arrival of 100,000-plus Central American migrants, away from the president and toward an obscure paragraph in a minor 2008 law about trafficking of prostitutes, say conservatives.

The GOP leadership is granting those concessions to Obama, even though his immigration policies are wrecking his poll ratings and are prompting Americans to endorse conservative immigration polices, say conservatives.

“The president’s approval rating is slipping to historic lows,” says an editorial in the conservative Weekly Standard. ”Don’t bail him out by jamming though a bill that divides Republicans, will confuse voters, won’t become law anyway, muddies responsibility for the border fiasco, and takes the spotlight off what should be the focus of the August recess — President Obama’s failed policies and Congressional Democrats’ support for them.”

Obama’s immigration policies are so unpopular that MSNBC host Ed Schultz is protesting. They’re so low that even The Washington Post has noticed. “Immigration has emerged as perhaps President Obama’s worst issue — definitely for today, and maybe of his entire presidency — when it comes to public perception,” said a Thursday article in The Washington Post.

But the GOP can’t take advantage of Obama’s failure because its leaders “suck at politics,” Horowitz said.

The jaundiced view is shared by several GOP legislators, including Sen. Jeff Sessions and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz.

The leadership’s immigration bill “is a plan for expedited asylum, not expedited removal” of the 100,000-plus Central Americans migrants, Sessions said.

House conservatives, such as Alabama Rep. Mo Brooks and Louisiana Rep. John Fleming, say few GOP legislators are confident conservatives. Most are either aligned with business groups, or subordinate conservative goals to whatever helps them win the next election.

“In my judgment, a majority of the senators and the House member of both parties are more than happy to betray America and the principles who made us who we are, first and foremost of which is the rule of law,” Brooks told The Daily Caller. “Those of us who are fight for hard-working families, unfortunately, we’re in a minority.”

“Hopefully, the American people will figure that out in the 2014 elections season and will make major changes,” said Brooks.