In a New York Times column entreating House Republicans to "Pass the Bill!" David Brooks hit back at conservatives urging Republicans to obstruct all efforts against a comprehensive immigration bill. In the column, Brooks dismantled their arguments against reform, writing that not passing a comprehensive bill "could be a tragedy for the country and political suicide for Republicans, especially because the conservative arguments against the comprehensive approach are not compelling."
Whether this bill passes or not, this country is heading toward a multiethnic future. Republicans can either shape that future in a conservative direction or, as I've tried to argue, they can become the receding roar of a white America that is never coming back.
That's what's at stake.
Brooks' column is the latest salvo in an emerging civil war on the right over immigration reform. It has pitted the likes of Brooks, Fox News host Bill O'Reilly, and Fox News contributor Karl Rove against Bill Kristol, Rich Lowry, Fox News contributor Laura Ingraham, Rush Limbaugh and the anti-immigrant, extremist wing of the GOP.
Indeed, Brooks' column comes a few days after an op-ed by The Weekly Standard's Kristol and The National Review's Lowry, titled "Kill the Bill," which called for House Republicans to "[put] a stake through" comprehensive immigration reform:
House Republicans should make sure not to allow a conference with the Senate bill. House Republicans can't find any true common ground with that legislation. Passing any version of the Gang of Eight's bill would be worse public policy than passing nothing. House Republicans can do the country a service by putting a stake through its heart.
That op-ed has now been supplemented with an ad posted at National Review Online that calls on readers to sign a petition urging House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) "to reject a conference with the Senate on immigration legislation":
The petition ends:
[W]e, the undersigned, call upon you to kill the Senate's Gang of Eight immigration bill and make sure it doesn't come to the House Floor in any form.
Passing any version of the Gang of Eight's bill would be worse public policy than passing nothing. House Republicans can do the country a service by putting a stake through its heart." -Lowry and Kristol.
Fox News contributor Laura Ingraham hosted Leah Durant, executive director of anti-immigrant organization Progressives for Immigration Reform (PFIR), on her radio show to promote an upcoming nativist rally against immigration reform. During the segment, Durant also repeated the myth that unemployment among African-Americans is spiking because of immigration reform.
In June, when Ingraham hosted Durant, she described her guest as a "progressive" voice on immigration reform. But Durant's group is far from progressive with ties to nativist organizations, including NumbersUSA, the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), and the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS).
On July 15, a number of anti-immigrant groups, including Durant's, will gather in Washington, D.C., for what they are calling the "DC March for Jobs," in an effort to hijack the immigration reform debate. The event is being sponsored by the Black American Leadership Alliance (BALA), a group that, as People For The American Way noted, "is just the latest incarnation of a shifting series of front groups for the anti-immigrant nativist group FAIR, which has been trying for years to drive a wedge between African Americans and Latinos."
From the July 10 edition of Courtside Entertainment Group's The Laura Ingraham Show:
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In a Fox News Latino op-ed, regular Fox News guest Michelle Fields slammed what she called Ann Coulter's focus on "offensive stereotypes" to argue against immigration reform. Fields wrote that Coulter's comments that Latinos are "the bottom of the barrel" and that "it's impossible to 'turn Mexico's underclass into Republicans'" are "insulting" and makes it "clear that she doesn't know very much about the Latino community or immigration."
Coulter, who regularly appears on Fox to decry immigration reform, has indeed said many of those things Fields accuses her of. But so has Fields.
Fields, who is now a correspondent for NextGeneration.TV -- whose director of programming is the virulently anti-immigrant former Rep. Allen West (a Fox News contributor) -- has her own history of making derogatory claims about immigrants.
In her op-ed, Fields criticized Coulter's claim that immigration reform "will turn America into a 'dumping ground for the world's welfare cases' because Latino immigrants are reliant on welfare," noting that a study by the Cato Institute found that immigrants don't use government benefits at higher rates than native-born citizens.
The persistent right-wing talking point that immigration reform would bring in anywhere from 11 million to as many as 30 million new Democratic voters has definitively been exposed as a myth.
The charge, pushed by Fox News, rests on the bogus allegation that because the Senate immigration reform bill includes a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, those new citizens would then be eligible to vote for Democrats.
As Fox News contributor Michelle Malkin wrote in a syndicated column arguing that "illegal alien amnesty violates our founding principles," "Unrepentant amnesty peddlers on both sides of the aisle admit their plan is all about votes and power." She continued:
Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain continues his craven, futile chase for the Hispanic bloc. Illinois Democratic Rep. Luis Gutierrez is openly salivating at the prospect of millions of new illegal aliens -- future Democratic Party dependents of the Nanny State -- who could be eligible for Obamacare and a plethora of other government benefits despite clear prohibitions against them.
On Fox, contributor Monica Crowley echoed the argument, claiming that the Senate immigration reform bill "has nothing to do with immigration." She added: "The Democrats have played this brilliantly. This is about flooding the zone with new Democratic voters so they can get a permanent voting majority."
From the July 9 edition of Premiere Radio Networks' The Rush Limbaugh Show:
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The Weekly Standard's Bill Kristol and The National Review's Rich Lowry are calling on House Republicans to obstruct comprehensive immigration reform efforts by not passing any immigration reform bills out of the chamber.
In a July 8 op-ed titled "Kill the Bill" cross posted on The Weekly Standard and The National Review's websites, Kristol and Lowry argued that House Republicans should not pass any immigration reform legislation. Doing so would obstruct immigration reform efforts by preventing Senate and House representatives from meeting to reconcile the differences between the Senate's bill and any bill that may pass the House:
House Republicans may wish to pass incremental changes to the system to show that they have their own solutions, even though such legislation is very unlikely to be taken up by the Senate. Or they might not even bother, since Senate Democrats say such legislation would be dead on arrival. In any case, House Republicans should make sure not to allow a conference with the Senate bill. House Republicans can't find any true common ground with that legislation. Passing any version of the Gang of Eight's bill would be worse public policy than passing nothing. House Republicans can do the country a service by putting a stake through its heart.
Others in right-wing media have proposed a similar strategy of obstruction. On the June 25 edition of her radio show, Fox News contributor Laura Ingraham and guest Kristol endorsed obstruction, arguing that the House and the Senate reconciling their immigration reform bills would result in a problematic law and should therefore be avoided. In addition, during the June 13 edition of Fox News' Hannity, guest Ann Coulter warned that "if the House passes anything concerning immigration" and conference with representatives from the Senate, the resultant bill "will come out an amnesty bill." She claimed that if a reconciled bill passed, "the country is over."
Right-wing media have long encouraged Republicans to engage in obstruction, including on the appointment of President Obama's second-term nominees and stricter gun violence prevention laws.
CBS' Face the Nation reinforced conservative arguments that the Senate immigration bill doesn't strenghten the border, but ignored the Congressional Budget Office report's finding that the Senate bill could cut illegal immigration in half as a result of the bill's border surge amendment.
Fox News interviewed Rush Limbaugh and Mark Levin this week -- two of the most vocal conservative figures speaking out in opposition to immigration reform -- yet asked neither guest about immigration.
Conservative radio hosts Rush Limbaugh and Mark Levin have been leading the charge against the bipartisan immigration reform bill passed by the Senate and currently pending in the House of Representatives. Levin has named the potential legislation a "disgusting disgrace" and "a crap sandwich." Limbaugh has habitually misrepresented the content of the bill, which he calls "amnesty," and claimed that because some Republicans support it, "the establishment of this party is authoring its demise." Both men have attacked Republican officials who support the bill and urged them to oppose it.
According to Limbaugh, he requested to talk about immigration and the Republican party when he phoned in to Fox & Friends on July 2, but the network rebuffed his request. Limbaugh later told his radio audience, "They asked me, 'what do you want to talk about?' ... First thing out of my mouth, 'I want to talk about immigration and the state of the Republican party,' [but Fox] wouldn't go there. I had to bring it up myself to whatever extent that I did." Limbaugh concluded, "And that, by the way, is quite telling to me."
Interestingly, the next day Levin called in to Your World with Neil Cavuto and also avoided the topic of immigration. Levin and host Cavuto spoke for nearly nine minutes, but discussed only the Affordable Care Act.
While it is unclear whether Levin, like Limbaugh, desired to talk about immigration reform during his interview, it is notable that both anti-immigration reform voices were silent while on Fox News.
Right-wing media have repeatedly distorted the Obama administration's record on border enforcement to claim that the border is not secure and that, in fact, the government has failed "to secure the states against invasion," as Fox News contributor Michelle Malkin has put it.
On Fox News' Hannity, Malkin claimed that "this current administration has done everything in its power to sabotage immigration law," and asked: "Why would you trust them one iota with the job that they will not do - that they refuse to do?" Host Sean Hannity added: "I want that border secure and I think we've got to get it done for our national security."
As the House prepares to debate the issue following the Senate passage of a bipartisan immigration reform bill that includes enhanced border measures, conservative media figures have used border security as a sticking point against which to derail reform.
But here are the facts on border enforcement.
A Wall Street Journal news article stoked fears that immigration reform would lead to an increase in unemployment, while ignoring the Congressional Budget Office's assessment that in the long-term there will be no effect on the employment rate.
A July 2 Journal article relied on man-on-the-street interviews and opinion polling to hype the fears of some Democratic voters that immigration reform could "squeeze the wages and jobs of native-born workers." Though the article cited a former chief economist at the Department of Labor who explained that immigration makes it easier for companies to hire U.S. workers, the article ignored a CBO report which found that immigration reform will have no long-term effect on unemployment and wages.
In fact, according to the CBO report, while enacting the immigration reform bill would cause a temporary increase of 0.1 percent in unemployment over the next five years because of the expanding workforce, there would be little effect in the long-term and "no effect on the unemployment rate after 2020." From the report:
In the long run, the actual unemployment rate in the economy tends to be close to its natural rate. The natural rate of unemployment of the additional immigrants would be comparable, on average, to that of the current population, CBO expects, so there would be little effect on the unemployment rate in the long run. Thus, in the long run, the number of employed people would increase by the same percentage as the growth in the labor force--by about 3½ percent in 2023 and by about 5 percent in 2033, CBO estimates.
Furthermore, the CBO found that average wages would increase by 2033, and that over the long term immigration reform would boost capital investment and raise productivity of labor and capital.
The Journal itself has previously acknowledged the economic benefits of immigration reform. Indeed a June 20 Journal editorial noted that the CBO report found the proposed legislation was "pro-growth" and would result in rising standards of living, higher wages, and increased productivity:
CBO also sensibly notes that newcomers to the U.S. tend to belong to either the least- or most-skilled groups of workers, so any harm for most average Americans is nonexistent. In fact they will benefit from rising standards of living and higher wages that faster growth makes possible.
New workers with lower skills or less education like farm hands or bar backs fill gaps in the U.S. labor market and will see their earnings rise over time. Let's also not forget that the Senate bill greatly increases H-1B visa quotas and green cards for tech and science grads, so the U.S. will see an influx of the engineers, Ph.D.s and entrepreneurs who generate the innovations that increase economic output faster. The CBO cites the large body of empirical literature on such "positive spillover effects" as a major reason productivity will rise.
MSNBC political reporter Benjy Sarlin has written a sharp deconstruction of the Republican Party's evolving attitude towards Latino voters. The shock of Mitt Romney's 2012 loss and the resulting calls for Latino outreach from conservatives have given way to old habits: namely, consolidating the white vote and keep hoping that's enough to propel the GOP to electoral victory. Fox News' Sean Hannity, who memorably claimed the day after the election that he'd "evolved" on immigration reform, now rejects reform and the idea that Republicans need Latinos to win.
This shift in attitudes comes just a few months after the Republican National Committee (RNC) unveiled its surprisingly harsh 2012 post-mortem, which endorsed comprehensive immigration reform as a way to expand the party's appeal. "If we want ethnic minority voters to support Republicans, we have to engage them, and show our sincerity," the report counseled. As I wrote at the time, the RNC's ambition for party rebranding, whatever its merits, faced a daunting obstacle: Rush Limbaugh and the coterie of lesser radio hosts who form the rigid spine of the conservative media apparatus. And by all indications, Limbaugh is prevailing.
Even as Hannity and other conservatives (temporarily) fell prey to post-election demography panic, Limbaugh never budged. "I don't know that there's any stopping this," Limbaugh said of immigration reform shortly after Obama's reinauguration. "It's up to me and Fox News, and I don't think Fox News is that invested in this." Funnily enough, Limbaugh was on Fox News just this morning to talk politics, and afterward he disclosed on the radio that he "told the people at Fox that I wanted to talk about" immigration and the GOP, "and they wouldn't do it. They were not interested in bringing this subject up."
The schism among conservatives on how to approach immigration reform and Latino voters in general isn't going away, but the biggest guns are and always have been on the side of the status quo: do nothing policy-wise and continue stoking fears over "illegal immigration" to try and drive sufficient numbers of resentful white voters to the polls. It's worked for Republicans in the past and a big reason behind its success has been the enthusiastic efforts of Rush Limbaugh and right-wing radio. As Sarlin notes, the anti-immigration groups working to kill the reform legislation have the ears of talk radio hosts and are successfully promulgating the message that the Republican Party does not need Latino voters.
It's precisely the sort of closed off, self-reinforcing ideological loop the RNC warned against in its report: "We have become expert in how to provide ideological reinforcement to like-minded people, but devastatingly we have lost the ability to be persuasive with, or welcoming to, those who do not agree with us on every issue." But so long as anti-immigrant demagoguery keeps people tuning in to the AM radio dial, any attempt at Republican "rebranding" won't stand much of a chance.
From the July 2 edition of Premiere Radio Networks' The Rush Limbaugh Show:
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Right-wing media have invented several conspiracy theories to attack the Senate comprehensive immigration reform bill, including claiming that the legislation provides free cars and cell phones for undocumented immigrants, and that it is a secret plot to create a permanent one-party system reminiscent of Marxist Russian premier Vladimir Lenin.
From the June 28 edition of Premiere Radio Networks' The Sean Hannity Show:
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