Conservatives Battle GOP Leaders On Immigration

Neil Munro White House Correspondent
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The GOP leadership’s new immigration bill shows that top Republicans won’t fight against the Democrats’ unpopular immigration policies, even when the public overwhelmingly agrees with the GOP, say several GOP-affiliated conservatives.

The GOP leaders’ bill is so favorable to President Barack Obama that it is the political equivalent of “catching your opponent’s Hail Mary pass and running it into your own end zone for them,” said Daniel Horowitz, the policy director for the Madison Project.

The leaders’ immigration bill will be voted on Thursday, and most rank-and-file legislators are expected to support the bill.

The Central American immigration influx has sparked protests in places like Murrieta, Calif., and downtown Boston.

Groups such as NumbersUSA and the Federation for American Immigration Reform, are rallying GOP-friendly voters to call Capitol Hill to protest the bill. Polls show Obama’s support on immigration has dived down to 18 percent, and strong opposition is at 57 percent.

Amid the protests, some conservative legislators are opposing the bill as a giveaway to Democrats. There are enough of those conservatives that GOP leaders worked late into the night of Thursday to win enough votes to reach 218 votes.

The leaders’ bill is unpopular among conservative activists because it would increase and accelerate low-skill migration from Latin American, create a new opportunity for Democrats and business lobbyists to revive the Senate’s 2013 immigration rewrite, and do nothing to deter President Barack Obama from carrying out his plan to distribute millions of work permits to illegal immigrants, say conservatives.

The bill would also allow the Democrats to shift the increasingly painful blame for the arrival of 100,000-plus Central American migrants, away from the president and toward an obscure paragraph in a minor 2008 law about trafficking of prostitutes, say conservatives.

The GOP leadership is granting those concessions to Obama, even though his immigration policies are wrecking his poll ratings and are prompting Americans to endorse conservative immigration polices, say conservatives.

“The president’s approval rating is slipping to historic lows,” says an editorial in the conservative Weekly Standard. “Don’t bail him out by jamming though a bill that divides Republicans, will confuse voters, won’t become law anyway, muddies responsibility for the border fiasco, and takes the spotlight off what should be the focus of the August recess — President Obama’s failed policies and Congressional Democrats’ support for them.”

Obama’s immigration policies are so unpopular that MSNBC host Ed Schultz is protesting. They’re so low that even The Washington Post has noticed. “Immigration has emerged as perhaps President Obama’s worst issue — definitely for today, and maybe of his entire presidency — when it comes to public perception,” said a Thursday article in The Washington Post.

But the GOP can’t take advantage of Obama’s failure because its leaders “suck at politics,” Horowitz said.

The jaundiced view is shared by several GOP legislators, including Sen. Jeff Sessions and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz.

The leadership’s immigration bill “is a plan for expedited asylum, not expedited removal” of the 100,000-plus Central Americans migrants, Sessions said.

House conservatives, such as Alabama Rep. Mo Brooks and Louisiana Rep. John Fleming, say few GOP legislators are confident conservatives. Most are either aligned with business groups, or subordinate conservative goals to whatever helps them win the next election.

“In my judgment, a majority of the senators and the House member of both parties are more than happy to betray America and the principles who made us who we are, first and foremost of which is the rule of law,” Brooks told The Daily Caller. “Those of us who are fight for hard-working families, unfortunately, we’re in a minority.”

“Hopefully, the American people will figure that out in the 2014 elections season and will make major changes,” said Brooks.

“GOP leadership has two audiences, two bases,” said Fleming.

“One is the established Chamber of Commerce group that looking for less expensive labor and they’re the ones who contribute a lot of money and so the [leaders] want to keep them happy,” he said.

“On the other hand, the Republican voting public out there wants the problems fixed, they want illegals treated humanely and they want border security and they want the newest wave sent back,” Fleming said.

Also, there’s no coordinated leadership in the GOP to hammer out a long-term and consistent policy on immigration, says conservatives.

Without a shared strategy, the GOP is shoved around by events, by lobbyists who profit form large-scale immigration, by Democrats and the media, Horowitz complained.

“John Boehnner has said so many things on immigration that I have no confidence on where he will be today, tomorrow, a year from now,” said Brooks. “He’s been all over map.”

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor is leaving after he lost his June 10 primary after his opponent ran against him on immigration.

His replacement, California Rep. Kevin McCarthy, is a political manager, not a policy guy, said Horowitz. “He’s gone out of his way not to annoy conservatives,” but has not developed an immigration strategy that allows the party to harness the country’s increasingly hawkish response to Obama’s immigration policies, Horowitz said.

“Leadership is inexorably against us. … They are with the monied interests,” he added.

The GOP leadership says their border bill will “specifically and responsibly target resources to deploy the National Guard, help Border Patrol officials do their job, change the 2008 law, and speed up the process of returning these children to their home countries.”

“The working group recommendations that have been included are the options I believe represent the most urgent actions that need to be taken to curb the flow of unaccompanied minors, along with women with children, from making the perilous journey to the U.S. border,” said a statement from Texas Rep. Kay Granger, who was picked by the GOP leadership to chair the group of legislators that drafted the package.

The bill was not drafted by legislators on the immigration panel of the House Judiciary Committee.

The leadership’s actions on immigration don’t face much resistance from the GOP caucus.

Most GOP legislators would rather avoid the immigration issue than work to promote conservative immigration policies, Horowitz said. “They just want to it to go away. … They’re not going to vote for amnesty, but they’re not going to fight it,” he said.

That passivity from most GOP legislators leaves “the fox guarding the henhouse,” said Horowitz.

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