Democrats dump rhetorical gasoline on immigration dispute for 2014 elections

Neil Munro White House Correspondent
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Advocates for increased immigration are spraying rhetorical gasoline into the immigration debate, partly because Democrats want to raise Latino turnout in the November elections.

One top advocate says President Barack Obama should invite previously deported people back into the United States, where they can compete for the low-wage jobs now being sought by low-skilled American natives and legal immigrants.

“We not only have to stop the needless destruction of families [with current deportations] but need to heal families that have been caught up in the almost two million deportations we have seen in recent years,” Rep. Luis Gutiérrez declared March 25, shortly after Obama’s new Homeland Security chief came to his office for a meeting.

In fact, deportations have fallen to historic lows under Obama’s direction.

The temperature is being raised by Latino groups who are physically blocking deportations, cheering a hunger strike in Washington State, holding televised demonstrations in D.C., and blaming the government for the deaths of Latinos who trek through the southern deserts.

House Democrats are staging media events to showcase their efforts to pass bills that would increase immigration, and are focusing English and Spanish-language media attention on “humans rights abuses” of immigrants.

President Barack Obama and White House officials are staging high-profile events to talk about deportation reductions, and are directing lower-level agents to release captured border-crossers, to ignore illegal-immigrants recently convicted of crimes, and to help transport border-crossing children to their parents in New Jersey and other northern states. They’re encouraging House Democrats to vote for an amnesty bill and denouncing GOP politicians who reject the push for immigration reform.

“Some would see in the outrage of the Latino population a mobilizing tool for the 2014 election,” Luis Marentes, an immigration activist and an associate professor of Spanish at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, told The Daily Caller. “This is part of the strategy of some of the immigration reform groups. Politics is data, facts, emotions, persuasion… [and] strategies of public performance bring attention.”

Frank Sharry, the founder of America’s Voice, sketched out the process in a March posting.

If the GOP finally blocks the president’s immigration plan, “Obama will step in and protect low-priority undocumented immigrants with relief from deportation and work permits; Republicans will go nuts and do everything they can to overturn the President’s executive action,” he said.

But the backlash, he predicted, will help the Democrats. “The GOP’s anti-Latino, anti-Asian and anti-immigrant brand will be cemented for a generation” among minority voters, he said.

Some marginal groups believe their street protests and demonstrations will force Obama to halt deportations before the November election, said Fernando Espuelas, the top-ranked Latino radio talk-show host.

“There are a lot of people who really want to believe in the magic wand of the presidency… Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy and Obama’s ability to overcome legislation,” he added.  That could become a political problem for Obama, he added, because “many people in the Hispanic community are convinced that the president has not done enough, and that he is somehow responsible for Congress’ inability to act.” (RELATED: Obama eyes even less immigration enforcement, seeks to reduce deportation of illegals)

“What we are supporting is the ‘Not One More’ campaign, to use presidential discretion to stop some of these deportations,” said Marentes, who also blogs for the LatinoRebels website. “What reasonable people in the debate are considering is [a stop to deportations for] people who would qualify under the Senate proposal, who have been living here, who have family ties.”

Amid the pre-November drama, Republicans should respond to Obama by emphasizing the economic damage of mass immigration to Americans, said Ira Mehlman, the communications director of the Federation for American Immigration Reform.

Hispanics and other Americans are being hurt by Obama’s decision to flood the terrible labor market with illegal immigrants, he said. The GOP’s message, he said, should be that “We can either maximize the number of people from your particular ethnic group [in the country] or maximize the [paid] value of your work; You chose.”

“A lot of Hispanics out there are struggling out like everyone else… and a lot of people will say ‘Yes, I have to put my family first,” ahead of ethnic solidarity, he said. So far, Sen. Jeff Sessions has done the best at pushing that economic message, he said.

In Texas, the GOP’s gubernatorial candidate is downplaying immigration differences and playing up Texas solidarity. “The blending of cultures in the Lone Star State works… We are all Texans,” Greg Abbott said in a speech after his primary win.

The post-ethnic pitch can also reduce anger at Obama among voters and Republican legislators, Mehlman said. Public anger is a danger to the GOP, because it is cited by Obama and his aides when they suggest that the GOP is a party of white people who hate Latinos.

In October 2011, for example, then-presidential contender Herman Cain jumped into a trap laid by Obama, who had said earlier that Republicans were so anti-Latino they would want a border moat filled with alligators.

“My fence might be part Great Wall and part electrical technology,” Cain said told a cheering GOP audience. “It will be a 20-foot wall, barbed wire, electrified on the top, and on this side of the fence, I’ll have that moat that President Obama talked about. And I would put those alligators in that moat!”

That misstep was quickly exploited by Democratic politicians seeking to spur Latino turnout in the 2012 election. Cain’s statement was evidence “that immigrants are being demonized and used as scapegoats by some of the most radical elements within the Republican Party,” said Democratic Rep. Sylvester Reyes.

This year, Obama is raising hope that he can bypass opposition from the GOP and the public. Under instruction from Obama, Homeland Secretary Jeh Johnson is developing proposals that would further reduce deportations and border arrests.

That’s popular among some Latino voters in the so-called “Hispanic community.” The term mashes together millions of native-born Americans who are Hispanic, with millions of legal and illegal immigrants from Hispanic countries. These groups have different views on immigration and enforcement, even as many Hispanic citizens’ are sympathetic to decreased enforcement because some of their neighbors, co-workers or family members are illegal immigrants.

But many Latinos also support tougher immigration enforcement, partly because they are afraid of crime or competition for jobs.

A long-running Pew Research survey showed that almost 60 percent of Hispanics in 2012 believed “we should restrict and control people coming to live in our country more than we do now.” That’s only modestly below the attitude among white and black Americans.

2013 Gallup poll showed that only 25 percent of Hispanics want immigration increased. Thirty percent want immigration reduced, and 43 percent want it to stay level, the poll showed. Even that number may overstate Latino support for additional immigration. A May 2013 poll by Rasmussen showed that only 9 percent of Democrats know that one million legal immigrants arrive each year. Four percent thought the inflow was more than 2.5 million a year, 36 percent thought it was below 500,000 a year, and 51 percent declined to guess.

However, the GOP’s ability to pitch that high-wage message is limited, said Mehlman. Aside from a few Republican leaders, such as Sessions, the party’s leadership is beholden to business groups and to donors that want more cheap labor, Mehlman said.

“The business lobbyists are extremely powerful on this issue,” he said.

Sessions is already using an economic pitch by bypass the Democrats’ effort to fuel ethnic conflict.

On March 26, leaders of the Democratic caucus in the House announced they would try to win a discharge petition for a bill that matches the Senate’s June 2013 rewrite. If the petition is signed by more than half of the House’s membership, the bill will get an up-or-down vote on the House floor.

“Incredibly, House Democrats have unified behind an immigration bill that would double the inflow of new guest workers competing against jobless Americans in every single U.S. occupation – from engineering to teaching to manufacturing,” said Stephen Miller, a spokesman for Sen. Jeff Sessions, who is pushing for a low-immigration, high-wage labor policy.

The House Democrats “will enrich the global elites who lobbied for it while slashing incomes and employment for millions of Americans that [the elite] apparently believe are not qualified to work,” Miller added.

The Senate rewrite passed with unanimous support from Democratic Senators, even though it would ensure roughly 40 million foreigners get work permits during the next decade, when 40 million Americans will turn 18. The 40 million foreigners would include at least 11 million former illegals, roughly 20 million new legal immigrants and more than 10 million guest workers. Roughly 20 million Americans are now either unemployed or stuck in part-time work.

Sessions’s office has produced reports that spotlight elements of the 2013 report by the Congressional Budget Office. The CBO report concluded that the Senate rewrite would raise unemployment and drop wages, raise current deficits and increase welfare spending.

In his statement, Gutierrez claimed that two million people have been deported. However, his claim combines reports about about caught at the border with reports about people living in the interior of the country who are arrested and sent home.

During Obama’s tenure, more than one million foreigners caught sneaking over the border and a few hundred thousand foreigners were deported after being arrested for crimes in the interior of the United States. Because of Obama’s enforcement rollbacks, only a very small percentage of illegal immigrants living in the United States were deported because they didn’t have permission to live in the United States. (RELATED: Obama threatens to veto bill would require administration to enforce laws)

Less than 0.02 percent of the roughly 11.7 million illegals living in the country were deported in 2013 for violating immigration laws, according to a new report by Sessions.

When asked by TheDC, Gutierrez’s office declined to explain if he’s seeking the return of foreigners who were caught at the border or sent home. “The Congressman has not released any detailed information on what he or the Congressional Hispanic Caucus may recommend as strategies that fit within current law for further administrative relief if Republicans continue to block legislative reforms,” said Douglas Rivlin, his communications director.

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