Sessions chides GOP donors, House leaders, journalists on amnesty

Neil Munro White House Correspondent
Font Size:

Alabama Republican Sen. Jeff Sessions has jumped into the House GOP debate over immigration reform, directly challenging Republican leaders, pollsters and one major GOP-allied donor pushing for a massive infusion of foreign workers.

“Bill Marriott, the global hotel magnate who has been lobbying for such immigration measures … said an immigration bill was needed to ‘help us staff positions that might otherwise go unfilled, especially in our seasonal resorts,'” Sessions said in 30-page statement that accompanied a briefing sent to GOP members on Wednesday.

“What about hiring unemployed Americans?” said Sessions, who is in line to chair the Senate’s budget committee if the GOP wins the November elections.

Marriott is a major GOP donor. He and his relatives have donated roughly $2.7 million in 2011 and 2012. Marriott earned a profit of $160 million in the third quarter of 2012, up 12 percent from the third quarter in 2012. The company has a stock value of $35 billion.

Sessions delivered his briefing book to the House members as they departed for a three-day strategy session in Cambridge, Md.

The House GOP leadership, led by Speaker John Boehner, is using the closed-door session to tout a rewrite of immigration laws which would grant amnesty to 11 million illegal immigrants, and sharply increase the existing inflow of 650,000 non-agricultural foreign workers per year. The rewrite has been drafted behind closed doors in cooperation with business groups and some Democrats, such as Illinois Rep. Luis Gutierrez, the leading House advocate for an amnesty.

Wisconsin Republican Rep. Paul Ryan, the House’s budget chief, is a leading advocate in the closed-door meetings. But GOP critics of the rewrite have been excluded from the closed-door talks.

“The GOP leaders’ [immigration] plan appears to be similar to the Senate Democrat / White House plan,” which passed the Senate in June, Sessions said. That Senate plan is “a hammer blow to the American middle class,” he wrote.

Numerous GOP legislators oppose the GOP leadership’s push to reform the immigration system. They say it could distract public attention from Obamacare, split the party during the run-up to the 2014 elections, and won’t increase Latino support for the GOP.

Sessions’ direct challenge to the GOP’s business-backed push clashes with the widespread belief among progressives and journalists that they are the champions of workers, both American and foreign.

Sessions also jabbed at reporters who cover the immigration issue, who usually fail to include any data in their articles. “In the rush to pass an immigration bill, there has been a near absence of any serious thought about the conditions facing American workers,” Sessions wrote.

For example, few journalists acknowledge the White House’s strategy of allying with business to pressure the GOP into accepting a huge inflow of Democratic-leaning immigrants. (RELATED: Obama rallies immigration advocates for 2014 race)

The inflow could reach up to 30 million by 2014 if the bill passed by the Senate last June is accepted by GOP leaders. That’s a huge number of immigrants, given that four million Americans turn 18 each year and 28 million teenagers will begin looking for jobs in the next five years. It is also more than the total number of African-Americans in the workforce, now almost 19 million.

The Senate bill would also sharply increase the resident population of roughly 800,000 university-trained, low-wage guest-workers. That population is now roughly level with the number of Americans who graduate each year with skilled degrees, and is distributed through the nation’s cities and universities.

Instead of recognizing businesses’ role, most reporters repeat the much-challenged claims by progressives that the GOP needs to pass immigration reform to boost its support among Latinos.

One exception is Greg Sargent, a blogger at the Washington Post, who notes the role of business in pushing the immigration rewrite. “The decision by the GOP’s leaders to move forward despite widespread opposition is a reminder that the intense push for reform from many major GOP-aligned constituencies — agricultural interests; big business; evangelicals — is really starting to matter,” Sargent wrote on Wednesday.

But Sargent dismisses the efforts by Sessions and other reformers to protect Americans workers from a huge inflow of low-wage foreign workers. The reformers are “the no-amnesty-at-all-costs brigade,” Sargent said.

In fact, Sessions has been arguing since early 2013 that a low-immigration policy will create high wages for Americans — and more voters for the GOP.

That stance has prompted Sessions to offer increasingly sharp criticism of CEOs, and even a temporary rhetorical symmetry between Sessions and the Senate’s only socialist, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders.

“A record influx of new immigrant workers will benefit certain CEOs who want lower labor costs, as well as certain politicians and interest groups … [and] will only further hollow out a shrinking middle class,” said Sessions’ Wednesday package.

Sessions also made sure to slam GOP pollsters, including Frank Luntz and the Winston Group. Both were invited to the GOP strategy meeting to give briefings, and both have poll-tested euphemisms to help amnesty-supporting legislators quell opposition from their constituents.

“A sensible immigration policy would also listen to the opinion of the American people. Not the opinions of the paid-for consultants trotted out with their agenda-driven polls to GOP member meetings — but the actual, honest opinion of the people who sent us here,” Sessions wrote.

Sessions’ package also offers responses to what it calls myths propagated by progressives and business groups.

Over the last week, Ryan has publicly repeated some of the claims denounced as myths by Sessions.

Myth seven, says the paper, is that an immigration reform “will help the economy and strengthen social security.”

“Naturally, adding 30 million new permanent residents will increase GNP,” says Sessions’ response. “But per-person GNP, according to [the Congressional Budget Office] will decline along with average wages.”

Another myth, says the paper, is the claim that “a majority of Americans support immigration reform.” In response, Sessions cites a series of independent polls that show solid opposition to amnesty and increased immigration.

Sessions’ package also highlighted the GOP’s near-universal distrust in Obama’s willingness to comply with laws. “The president has a constitutional duty to take care that the laws be faithfully executed, but President Obama’s record in this regard is abysmal,” says the paper.

That issue has been repeatedly validated by the GOP leaders — including Boehner and Ryan.

Their admissions have allowed numerous GOP legislators to call for a delay in deciding the issue, which would allow them to sidestep the issue without directly disagreeing with their voters or their donors, or without validating Obama’s populist campaign theme, before the November midterm elections.

Sessions ended his three-page letter to his GOP peers by voicing support for the economic interests of his constituents.

“Republicans should fulfill our clear duty to defend the core interests of the American workers who form the backbone of this nation,” he wrote. “And they should tell the President’s CEO lobbyists, loudly for all to hear: we don’t work for you; we work for the American people.”

Follow Neil on Twitter