The last GOP member in the House’s “Gang of Eight” immigration-boosting panel has predicted the House would ignore the divisive issue before Christmas.
The thumbs-down signal comes as GOP leaders and conservative advocates step up their efforts to develop and sell various reform-minded conservative policies and Republican candidates to a larger swath of voters. Those targets include middle-class Latinos, blue-collar whites and Latino workers who would likely be hurt economically by any increase in low-wage immigrants .
Florida Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart Caballero was the last of four GOP members in the bipartisan gang, which tried to draft a major rewrite of the nation’s immigration law. The rewrite was expected to include some form of amnesty for 11 million illegal immigrants, plus rules allowing companies to bring in hundreds of thousands of foreign guest-workers each year.
The effort gradually fell apart amid much public opposition. Two GOP members quit in September, saying they could not trust President Barack Obama to negotiate or implement any deal.
On Thursday, Diaz-Balart told the Washington Post, “I don’t think we’re going to be able to do it this year.” The delay likely dooms any immigration rewrite, because it would push the House vote into an election year when members are very loath to start an emotional fight with their own voters.
He’s still trying to pass an immigration rewrite, he said in a statement to The Daily Caller. But “we only have 16 days left in the legislative calendar this year, and I don’t think it will be done before that,” the statement said.
Diaz-Balart’s declaration suggests that the GOP’s leaders have decided not to push through an immigration rewrite before the 2014 election.
His concession follows a hugely expensive lobbying blitz by progressives, high-tech companies and agricultural firms, which was strongly aided by favorable reports in the establishment media.
The lobbying campaign persuaded swing-voting senators to support a major bill in June that would provide green cards to 33 million immigrants by 2023. If approved by the House, the Senate bill would bring in three new immigrants and one new guest worker for every four Americans who turn 18, despite the steady drop in the employment of American natives since 2000, and a parallel drop in wages.
Diaz-Balart’s concession ”is good news,” said a Hill staffer. It shows that GOP reformers are successfully defeating the immigration push, which would reduce Americans’ wages and increase blue-collar voters’ dependence on government, he said. “Now the GOP needs to understand that the path to winning minority votes is not an immigration bill but a working-class freedom agenda buttressed by sensible immigration controls,” he said.
GOP leaders and advocates are already drafting various proposals.
“Progressives have become the party of Wall Street, K Street and Pennsylvania Avenue [and] we must become the party of Main Street, everywhere,” Utah Sen. Mike Lee declared in a October speech at the Heritage Foundation. He also urged the GOP to develop new plans that help Americans help themselves. “The day will come when Republicans need a health-care plan [but] today we need ten of them,” he said.
Sen. Jeff Sessions, the GOP leader of the Senate’s budget committee, argues the GOP will grow by boosting Americans’ wages. “The GOP lost the  election because it hemorrhaged support from middle- and low-income Americans of all backgrounds… [a] humble and honest populism… would open the ears of millions who have turned away from our party,” he wrote in a July memo to his fellow GOP senators.
The American Principles Project released a report in October urging the GOP to fuse its business and social conservative wings around a shared agenda. Surveys shows that social conservatives’ message helps win support among Latinos by countering the GOP’s image as the party of wealthy Americans, according to the group’s report on the 2012 results, titled “Building a Winning GOP Coalition.”
“Social issues are a key part of a winning coalition, especially with Latinos… [partly because] the economic message as presented by [Gov. Mitt] Romney and his cohorts is not a winning message,” Maggie Gallagher, a co-author of the report, told The Daily Caller.
Gov. Chris Christie won a landslide reelection victory in New Jersey with the aid of blue-collar voters and 51 percent of the Latino vote. That win was built on a mix of populist policies including some socially conservative policies, outreach to blue-collar workers, spending programs, support for Obamacare and approval of cheap in-state tuition for illegal immigrants.
House leaders are also working on new welfare reform, tax and education bills that will showcase the GOP’s support for families and younger strivers, including Latinos.
The Republican National Committee and other GOP groups are trying to reach out to Latino leaders and communities, many of whom are more used to seeing GOP leaders in racially-divisive Democratic attack ads during election seasons.
However, Hill staffers warned that the GOP’s business wing and its progressive allies are still expected to make another well-funded attempt to push through a major immigration rewrite, perhaps in January when a pause in budget talks might create time for a House vote. “Be warned: the corporate-leftist campaign to replace American workers [with low-wage immigrants] is unending — and senior House Representatives are drafting amnesty and guest worker bills as we speak,” the Hill staffer said.
On Nov. 7, the progressive group American’s Voice slammed Diaz-Balart’s admission. “We in the immigration reform movement are going to fight like hell to make reform happen, starting with House floor action this year [and] it would be nice if our so-called champions in the House GOP would do the same,” the group said in a statement.
Union groups have funded a $500,000 attack-ad campaign in November to pressure seven GOP legislators to back an immigration increase.
Numerous billionaires and millionaires from Silicon Valley and New York want a law that would allow them to import more low-wage professionals, and have offered to spend tens of millions of dollars on advertising to help GOP legislators survive the subsequent public rejection. Salaries for American software programmers fell in 2012, partly because the industry already employs roughly 500,000 university-trained guest workers.
Diaz-Balart said he was still tying to pass an immigration bill, despite the packed House calendar. “It’s no secret that I’m working towards legislation that secures the border, strengthens our economy, respects the rule of law, modernizes our visa system, and addresses the issue of the millions living in the shadows in a way that is both reasonable and human,” said the statement from his office.
Under current law, the United States provide green cards to 1 million immigrants per year, and gives temporary work permits to roughly 700,000 non-agricultural, low-wage guest workers per year.
The nation’s labor force of 150 millon includes a population of roughly 25 million foreign-born workers — including roughly 8 million illegal immigrants — plus a population of roughly 1 million university-educated guest workers, alongside at least 20 million unemployed and underemployed Americans.