‘Next major civil rights movement:’ Democrats predict summer political campaign on immigration

Neil Munro White House Correspondent
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House Republicans who don’t agree to the Senate’s bipartisan “Gang of Eight”  immigration bill will face a summer of protests by billionaires, clerics, ethnic lobbies and illegal immigrants, a top Democrat threatened Sunday.

The protests by and for illegal immigrants could escalate into the next “civil rights” movement, claimed New York Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer, the chief author of the Senate immigration bill, which faces a critical vote late Monday.

“This has the potential of becoming the next major civil rights movement. …I could see a million people on the mall in Washington, on the platform would [be] … the leaders of business, the leaders of the evangelical movement, the leaders of high tech,” Schumer said during an appearance on CBS’s “Face The Nation” Sunday.

However, Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions, the leading Republican voice against the immigration bill, suggested the GOP would gain politically by defeating the immigration bill.

“Why would any member of Congress want to vote for a bill at a time of high unemployment, falling wages, [that would] bring in a huge surge of new labor that can only hurt the poorest among us the most?” he said on CBS’s “Face The Nation” Sunday.

If the bill is approved by the Senate Monday, it will allow the pro-immigration coalition to focus their allied media, financial and lobbying power against swing-voting GOP House legislators. This pressure would also be focused on the House leadership, whose top members have repeatedly said they want to pass an immigration bill this year.

If the GOP-controlled House doesn’t pass the bill, “they’re going to have really tough conversations with Latinos and Hispanics about what this party stands for [and] do they really want people to come ‘out of the shadows,’” former White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said on NBC’s “Meet The Press” Sunday.

Gibbs’ “out of the shadows” phrase refers to the proposed legalization for 11 million illegal immigrants that is included in the Senate bill.

Republican “Speaker [John] Boehner will have to bring a bill, either the Senate bill or something much closer to it than people think, to the floor of the Senate,” even if he has to go against the wishes of a majority of House members, Schumer claimed.

“He will have no choice as the pressure mounts over the summer,” Schumer predicted.

If the bill passes the Senate, but not the House, it can help Democrats rally their Latino and progressive supporters prior to the 2014 mid-term election.

If the bill fails to win at least 60 Senate votes on Monday, however, it will be defeated, reducing political pressure on the House prior to President Barack Obama’s effort to retake the House in the 2014 election.

In April, GOP senators defeated a gun control measure pushed by President Barack Obama, derailing the potential for the president to use the gun control issue to spur turnout by suburban voters in 2014.

Some top GOP leaders, including Florida. Gov. Jeb Bush, have pushed for the Senate to pass the Gang of Eight immigration bill, saying it can help the GOP appeal to Hispanic voters in the 2016 presidential election. Bush may try to win the GOP nomination for 2016.

In contrast, Sessions pushed the rival strategy of standing up for the interests of working-class and middle-class Americans whose wages and job prospects he argues would be undermined by the large influx of low-skilled immigrants and university-trained guest workers allowed by the immigration bill.

Many Americans, including Hispanics, “are working in the $20,000 to $40,000 income level. Their wages will be impacted adversely. Their ability to get a job, to get a job with retirement benefits and health care benefits — [and] somebody needs to speak up for them,” Sessions said on the CBS show.

“We [should] move away from ethnic politics and we [should] try to appeal to all people based on what’s best for America and for them,” he said.

Roughly 20 million Americans are unemployed or underemployed, and the nation’s economy is still recovering from the government-boosted housing bubble in 2007.

Polls show the public is split over some of the stated goals of the bill, but GOP and swing voters are overwhelmingly opposed to the bill’s provisions that would double the inflow of immigrants and guest workers, according to a recent poll by a group that opposes the bill.

“Every demographic group showed low support for the bill’s increase in less-educated foreign workers, including Republicans (7 percent), moderates (8 percent), high school grads (4 percent), Hispanics (19 percent) and the young age 18-39 (14 percent),” said a statement by the group, NumbersUSA.

Sessions’ focus on low-income Americans reflects a widespread argument that poor turnout by unenthusiastic GOP-leaning voters helped President Barack Obama win the 2012 election, more than any increase of the Latino vote.

Late Monday, the Senate will hold a critical “cloture vote” to end debate on the immigration bill, three days after it was rewritten to include a so-called ‘border surge.’”

But the border surge won’t happen if the bill becomes law, Sessions said Sunday.

“These promises of 20,000 agents won’t take place … [because] no money is being appropriated,” he said.

The much-touted plan for 700 miles of fencing will also be ditched once the bill passes, he said. The bill “has a specific provision that says that [Homeland Security] Secretary [Janet] Napolitano does not have to build any fence if she chooses not to, and she’s publicly said we’ve had enough fencing,” he said.

The surge is intended to provide political cover to the several GOP senators who are willing to back the bill.

The inflow of immigrants is backed by progressive groups and by business groups, partly because it would provide additional voters, workers, customers and profits from investments.

Roughly 90 percent of the additional immigrants will be low-skilled, and will not earn enough money to pay for the routine taxpayer aid provided to all low-skilled Americans by American taxpayers, according to an analysis put out by the conservative Heritage Foundation.

The bill also doubles the inflow of university-trained guest workers, who will compete for jobs against the American professionals who now pay a large slice of overall taxes, according to the Center for Immigration Studies, a non-profit that promotes reducing levels of immigration to the United States.

The bill would also provide many new legal protections — including taxpayer funded lawyers — for illegal immigrants, making it more difficult and more expensive for any additional border security forces to detain and deport undocumented migrants, according to the bill’s proponents.

A new report by the Congressional Budget Office said the doubled guest worker provisions of the new bill would spur some forms of illegal immigration. The CBO report also said the bill would nudge down average wages and education, increase unemployment rates, and reduce the share of national income that goes to wage and salaries.

The controversial “border surge” amendment would have no impact on illegal overstays by blue collar visitors or by professional class guest-workers.

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