GOP’s recess talking points push pro-immigration message

Neil Munro | White House Correspondent

The GOP’s leadership has given its legislators a set of immigration talking points that highlight poll-tested pitches by the GOP’s business sector, and which downplays opposition from GOP activists who say increased immigration will hurt workers and the GOP’s ballot-box tallies. (RELATED: Republican lawmakers unveil new immigration talking points)

“The [immigration] issue has not become conservative vs. liberal but citizens vs. elites,” said a GOP aide, who opposes the immigration rewrite while Democrats control the White House and Senate. “Elites in both parties believe businesses should be entitled to hire as many foreign workers as they wish with no regard for how it hurts US workers or drains public resources,” he added.

The talking points are being given to legislators who on their way home for the August recess by the House Committee on the Judiciary. They’re partly intended to blunt intense opposition and skepticism in the GOP base to the leadership’s apparent push for a rewrite of immigration law.

During the recess, business and progressive groups, plus President Barack Obama’s Organizing for America group, are pushing GOP legislators to pass any immigration bill so that a final bill can be drafted behind closed-doors by a joint conference committee of legislators from the Senate and the House.

However, critics of the bill oppose any conference committee because they fear the alliance of progressives and business groups could combine a few GOP votes with the Democratic caucus to ensure passage of a conference-drafted bill.

Under pressure from critics, the GOP leader in the House, House Speaker John Boehner, has said he won’t schedule votes on any immigration legislation until it wins the support of a majority of the House Republicans.

The talking points downplay the push by Obama and other Democrats for an immigration increase.

Obama’s aides say the immigration bill is a very high priority for the president, and its passage would be a “historic” achievement.

Instead, the 24-page document highlights the House leadership’s strategy of reassuring GOP supporters with a step-by-step approach to passage of a comprehensive bill. This strategy highlights popular proposals for enhanced border security, but obscures the fact that any bill must be reconciled with the demands by Democrats for increased immigration of low-skill immigrants.

Judiciary “Chairman [Bob] Goodlatte believes that enforcement needs to come first before any legalization happens, and the immigration August recess packet makes that clear,” said an aide at the judiciary committee.

The talking points document touts the drafting of some popular immigration legislation that would boost enforcement of immigration laws in workplaces, borders and airports. It also provides a favorable description of bills favored by the GOP’s business interests, which would provide an amnesty to many illegal immigrants, and also increase the annual inflow of skilled guest-workers and immigrants.

Under current law, each year, roughly 1 million immigrants given green cards, and roughly 650,000 guest-workers are given visas to work in non-agricultural blue-collar and professional-class jobs. Since 2006, the number of native-born Americans with jobs has declined, while the number of immigrants with jobs has increased.

The talking points showcase support from business-focused groups, such as the Project for a New American Economy, which was founded by New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, and the American Action Forum, founded by Fred Malek, a GOP donor and hotel-magnate.

On the last page, for example, the report includes favorable quotes from a letter sent by American Action Forum, Americans for Tax Reform, and American Conservative Union. “We urge the House to take up a comprehensive package of immigration reforms– be it one bill or many – that secures our border, increases the legal flow of workers, and deals sensibly with the undocumented population,” said the letter.

In a section about describing a bill that would increase the import of skilled immigrations and guest-workers, despite the relatively high unemployment rate among American graduates, the talking points highlight support from a series of business groups, including Bloomberg’s group, plus the Consumer Electronics Association, the Internet Association, and the Information Technology Industry Council.

The report also suggests that the opposition to the bill has little support in the GOP. For example, it includes a clip from the April 2 issue of Roll Call, saying “Club for Growth and FreedomWorks to Sit Out Immigration Fight.”

The report does not cite opposition from Tea Party groups, such as the Cincinnati Tea Party. In July, that group allied with many others to sent a message to the GOP’s House leader, House Speaker John Boehner, demanding that the Senate bill should be be declared “dead on arrival,” because it would worsen circumstances for people “struggling to reach the bottom rung of the economic ladder.”

“The most important aspect of August recess is for Members to go home to their districts and listen to their constituents,” the judiciary aide told The Daily Caller. “This August, Members will receive feedback and input from the American people on immigration reform.”

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