Tea party groups and small-government activists are applying grassroots pressure to stop the House from approving the Senate immigration bill, which would triple immigration to roughly 33 million people over 10 years.
An Oct. 17 letter from more than 100 conservative leaders and tea party activists to the Republican Speaker of the House, Rep. John Boehner, says the Senate bill is so flawed that it would create a “disaster” for Americans, even if it is merged with a perfect House immigration bill.
“We ask you to make a public commitment that the House of Representatives will not conference any House immigration bill with any version of the Senate immigration, or engage in any informal negotiations to do so,” reads the one-page letter, which is accompanied by three pages of signatures from conservatives, tea party leaders and immigration reform groups.
“In the absence of such a commitment, we, and the millions of Americans our organizations represent, will have no choice but to oppose all efforts to bring any immigration legislation before the House of Representatives,” the letter concludes.
The signers include Jenny Beth Martin of the Tea Party Patriots, Mike Needham from Heritage Action, and Phyllis Schlafly from the Eagle Forum. The immigration groups who signed the letter include NumbersUSA and the Federation for American Immigration Reform.
The letter’s clout is backed up by numerous polls showing that passionate opponents greatly outnumber passionate supporters of important portions of the bill, especially the portions that would add millions of workers to the U.S. economy at a time when 20 million Americans are unemployed or underemployed.
Numerous business-funded push polls show high levels of public support for a conditional, staged, multi-year amnesty of the estimated 11 million workers in the country. But other polls show that majorities of the public does not believe the government will enforce those conditions, such as putting an end to illegal immigration.
The Democrats are working with business to pressure Boehner and top Republicans to back the bill. The immigration bill is “the thing [Obama] wants to get more than anything else” in his second term, Sen. Charles Schumer said in a Thursday MSNBC interview.
The next few weeks are likely to be critical for the immigration push, partly because the latest budget deal is scheduled to create another high-stakes budget showdown in December and the first part of January.
GOP leaders will need to keep their caucus and coalition united during the next budget fight, and won’t want to see splits weaken their bargaining power — or alienate the base voters they’ll need in November 2014.
However, business groups, including Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and other Silicon Valley donors, have pledged to spend tens of millions of dollar to overcome public resistance.
“Probably the most significant factor is there is no money on the other side of this issue,” said one advocate for the immigration bill, Kentucky Democrat, Rep. John Yarmuth.
“All the money is on the side of pushing it… a couple weeks ago we met with Mark Zuckerberg from Facebook and he’s raised… $50 million to run ads supporting people who will support comprehensive immigration reform and to pressure people who may be on the fence,” he told an Oct. 1 meeting hosted by the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute.
Zuckerberg is estimated to own $18 billion worth of Facebook stock.
The software industry is flying into D.C. next week to lobby top GOP leaders to support increased immigration, and the executives see it as “their last chance” to win, says a video distributed Oct. 18 by Zuckerberg’s lobbying group, FWD.us
“They’re all coming in Oct. 28 to really put the push on… they’re going all-in right now, they see this as their last chance,” USA Today’s immigration reporter, Alan Gomez told Andrea Mitchell in an MSNBC interview.
The executives “think they can speak a little bit more directly to these conservative members, especially in the House,” said Gomez.
Gomez was answering a loaded question from Mitchell, asking whether the business leaders were doing enough to pass the immigration bill, or will instead betray the bill’s supporters.
“Are they pulling their weight or are they washing their hands of it?” said Mitchell, who works for a company part-owned by Microsoft — a primary supporter of the Senate’s immigration rewrite.
Gomez described the business leaders — many of whom are liberal, and also lobby government for marketplace advantages — as “conservative.”
The letter was not co-signed by libertarian or anti-regulation groups, such as the Cato Institute, the Competitive Enterprise Institute, FreedomWorks or Americans For Prosperity.
Generally, the immigration bill is supported by many GOP-linked business groups, such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, trade associations, large corporations and major donors, because it will provide business with millions of extra workers and consumers.