The GOP and CIR: Pushing Forward or Pulling Back?

On the issue of immigration reform, the American conservative movement appears to be straining to go in two different directions at once, much like the pushmi-pullyu (two-headed llama from the Dr. Dolittle children’s stories). Among those pushing toward comprehensive immigration reform (CIR) are lukewarm supporters who see it as a political inevitability that’s not worth fighting about, as well as ardent proponents who fear that failure to pass CIR will further alienate Latino voters from the GOP.

When the elections of 2012 were still fresh in the minds of Washington’s political class, many who once opposed CIR joined the camp of lukewarm supporters. Several months out, resistance to CIR is stirring once again; trying to pull the GOP away from what some still believe will be a bad deal.

As the Senate Judiciary Committee prepared to mark up the CIR bill on May 9th – “markup” being Washington-speak for debate, amend and rewrite proposed legislation – pressure from anti-CIR conservatives was ratcheting up. Three days before the markup, right on cue, the right-leaning Heritage Foundation released a special report trumpeting a variety of apocalyptic consequences that would follow, it says, from passage of CIR – that is, a bill that includes a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. [See The Fiscal Cost of Unlawful Immigrants and Amnesty to the U.S. Taxpayer, by Robert Rector and Jason Richwine, Heritage Foundation, 06.May.2013.]

Whether you call it an earned path to citizenship, or use the dreaded “a-word” (amnesty), the Heritage Foundation says that providing permanent legal status to 11 million undocumented immigrants will cost the taxpayers $6.3 trillion over the next 50 years, “including costs associated with Obamacare, Social Security, and other entitlements, plus more than 80 means-tested welfare programs.” [See Amnesty Cost to Taxpayers: $6.3 Trillion, Press Release, Heritage Foundation, 06.May.2013.]

As Julia Preston of the New York Times notes, not everyone on the right cheered the new report. [See Estimate of Immigration Overhaul’s Cost Gets Mixed Reviews on Right, by Julia Preston, New York Times, 06.May.2013.] According to the Times, Republican luminaries like Haley Barbour and Grover Norquist were among the conservatives who blasted the Heritage Foundation study. The Times reports that Norquist’s Americans for Tax Reform analyzed the study and “called the cost estimate ‘wildly overblown,’ arguing that the study had, among other things, lumped native-born Americans into many of its calculations.”

The Heritage Foundation report will provide political cover for members of Congress in districts where immigration skepticism runs high. For them, the report is like manna from heaven – or perhaps more to the point, like monkey wrenches raining down into the delicate machinery that was so carefully crafted by the Gang of Eight.

At the same time, the report highlights the difficulties facing the Republican leadership – which needs to get everyone pushing – or pulling – in the same direction, if it hopes to pass CIR and broaden its electoral appeal. On a larger scale, this is the very task facing Congressional leaders on both sides of the aisle, who need to reach consensus on CIR before the window of opportunity closes – a tall order, by any measure.


Copyright © 2013, MURTHY LAW FIRM. All Rights Reserved

Disclaimer: The information provided here is of a general nature and may not apply to any specific or particular circumstance. It is not to be construed as legal advice nor presumed indefinitely up to date.