Politics

GOP Leadership Hides New Immigration Push

Neil Munro White House Correspondent

GOP leadership aides are refusing to explain why they’re working to reanimate a divisive border security bill during the high-stakes fight over President Barack Obama’s unpopular amnesty.

The aides pushed the bill during a Friday meeting in the Capitol that turned contentious when GOP staffers questioned the effort to revive the bill, which had been taken off the debate calendar in late January because of opposition from GOP legislators and the GOP’s base voters.

Michael Steel, a spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner, responded “No” when the The Daily Caller asked for an interview with the leadership staffer who ran the invitation-only meeting.

April Ward, the spokeswoman for the bill’s sponsor, Texas Republican Rep. Mike McCaul, also blocked an interview request, but offered vague justifications for the meeting. “Chairman McCaul and [his Homeland Security] committee have been holding listening sessions with members and their staffs in order to have an open and honest dialogue about the need for border security legislation,” she said.

Becky Tallent was the leadership aide who “was leading the entire thing,” said one of the House staffers at the meeting.

In December 2013, Boehner hired Tallent from the business-backed Bipartisan Policy Center, where she had advocated for unpopular immigration laws that would increase the flow of foreign workers into American jobs.

When a McCaul leadership aide was forced during the meeting to admit one of his claims was wrong, Tallent stepped up to say that ‘“we’re still in a listening session phase,’” according to another GOP staffer at the meeting. “Most of the people that spoke were not enthusiastic” about the McCaul bill, he added.

Some GOP staff aides “applauded the work that McCaul’s staff has done to craft this bill, but there were several more who voiced concerns,” said a staffer for a moderate GOP legislator.

“Unfortunately, with leadership staff, those concerns seem to have fallen on deaf ears,” said the staffer. “They insist that the substance of the bill is good, which they seem to think should be enough to satisfy everyone’s concerns,” the staffer added. “The mood in the room… was a bit combative.”

The closed-door push for the McCaul bill comes as a divided 54-seat GOP Senate majority struggles to overcome the Democrats’s unified opposition to a budget bill that bars spending on Obama’s unpopular November amnesty. The amnesty would provide work permits for 5 million illegals, and largely end repatriation of all 12 million illegals, including many who have violated laws or who rely on welfare payments.

GOP leaders haven’t mounted a PR offensive against the Democrats’ pro-amnesty filibusters, and haven’t even threatened to block Obama’s nominees.

In contrast, nearly all GOP voters oppose Obama’s amnesty. At least four polls show that almost 90 percent of the GOP’s base opposes the amnesty. For example, a January poll by The Washington Post showed that the amnesty is opposed by 89 percent of Republicans, 54 percent of independents, and 32 percent of Democrats. Without enthusiastic support from those voters, the GOP will lose the 2016 elections.

But the GOP senators’ lack of determination is so obvious that all 46 Democratic senators — including those up for election in 2016 — have filibustered three times to block any debate on the bill.

The Democrats’ filibusters threaten to block the budget for the Department of Homeland Security after Feb. 27.

The Democrats are filibustering because they think they can defeat the divided GOP caucus and because they fear a open debate would allow the GOP to block funding for the unpopular amnesty, which would use Americans’ taxes to help illegal immigrants compete for jobs sought by Americans.

Any renewed push for the McCaul bill will reduce pressure on Democrats to allow funding for the DHS, said several GOP staffers.

At the meeting, “you had so many staffers emphasizing the fact that we don’t need to be talking about his [McCaul] bill until the [DHS] funding bill is done,” said GOP staffer. “it would be distract from what is going on in the Senate, to discuss it,” he said.

“A lot of members are concerned for various about a strategy that would result in that,” said the GOP staff member.

GOP critics also fear the House leadership will pass the McCaul border bill so it can be touted by GOP Senators as substitute for their failure to beat the Democratic filibuster. The GOP leadership should “not do anything with this [McCaul] bill until the DHS bill is done,” said one of the staffers contacted by TheDC.

Also, critics worry that passage of the McCaul bill would be used to protect GOP and Democratic legislators, plus the GOP presidential nominee, from public protest if Democratic and GOP leaders push a big bill that combines the parties’ very unpopular priorities — amnesty for 12 million illegals plus work-permits for an unlimited number of white-collar workers for use in professional jobs.

“That’s always a concern that it is a stalking horse for amnesty and guest workers,” said one of the GOP staffers. “That’s out there, absolutely,” he added.

Critics say the McCaul bill won’t even help border security.

The draft McCaul bill would spend $10 billion over the next decade, but would not change Obama’s policy of releasing border-crossers into the United States after they’re caught, would not accelerate roll-out of the visitor entry/exit database and would not extend the border fence.

The varied types of fence now stretches only one-third of the distance along the 2,000 mile border. Less than 50 miles consists of the most effective double-layer fence, while 300 miles consists only of anti-vehicle barriers. The bill also sidelines other priorities for GOP voters, such as rules that would ensure penalties for companies which hire illegal workers.

The influx of roughly 10 million foreign workers — legal and illegal immigrants, guest-workers and miscellaneous recipients of work-permits — has reduced the proportion of Americans in the workforce since 2010. In November 2014, one in every five U.S. jobs was held by a foreign-born worker, up from one-in-six jobs in January 2010, according to federal data highlighted by the Center for Immigration Studies.

Each year, 4 million young Americans begin competing for jobs against at least 10 million unemployed Americans, roughly 2 million new foreign migrants, and against a resident pool of roughly 1.3 million guest-workers.

Amnesty advocates say new immigrants will spur the economy. But middle-class Americans’ median wages have been flat since before 2000, helping boost investors’ profits to record levels.

Only 7 percent of Americans want additional immigration, according to a new Gallup poll.

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