comprehensive immigration reform

Staver Seeks Compassion for Immigrants (Gays, Not So Much)

On his program last evening, Alan Colmes interviewed Liberty Counsel's Mat Staver about the position staked out by a few Religious Right activists, including Richard Land, Ken Blackwell, and Lou Engle, calling for immigration reform legislation that secures the borders but also provides a pathway to citizenship for those who are already in the country.

Needless to say, this is a rather significant break for the historical right-wing response to any effort toward comprehensive immigration reform, which has tended to consist primarily of people on the Right yelling "AMNESTY!" whenever any such proposal has been floated.

And this is something which Staver obviously recognized, which is why he is insisting that the position for which they are advocating is not "amnesty" but rather an "earned pathway to citizenship" - the difference being that amnesty comes without no conditions or punishments, whereas an "earned pathway to citizenship" would carry with it possible fines, penalties, regulations, and legal obligations ... as if that technical distinction is going to stop his allies on the Right from screaming "AMNESTY!" 

On a related note, Colmes asked how his allies at the Freedom Federation were going to react to this stance, given that many members of the coalition are the very people who have spent the last several years screaming "AMNESTY!" every time this issue has come up, to which Staver responded that not everybody has to agree with his position, but insisting that there "is more consensus than difference" within the coalition on this issue.

Eventually, Colmes asked Staver why he was so compassionate when it came to the issue of immigration, but so much less compassionate when it comes to the issue of gays, which Staver really didn't want to answer, saying that he didn't want to get off topic ... but then basically said that, unlike gays, immigrants are not trying to change America and force their views on everyone else:

Staver, Engle, Land, and Others Seek a "Just Assimilation Immigration Policy"

Tomorrow, the National Evangelical Association will seek to rally support for comprehensive immigration reform by placing a full-page ad Roll Call that calls for reform that "establishes a path toward legal status and/or citizenship for those who qualify and who wish to become permanent residents." Among those reportedly slated to sign on to this effort are Mat Staver of Liberty Counsel and Richard Land of the Southern Baptist Convention.

But before the ad has run, Liberty Counsel issued its own lengthy statement calling on "Evangelical Leaders [to] Unite on Just Assimilation Immigration Policy" that is calls on anti-immigration activists to stop labeling any effort to grant a pathway to citizenship immigrants already in the country as "amnesty" and "to stop politicizing this debate needlessly and to honestly acknowledge the difference" - it is signed by the likes of Staver, Land, Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, Ken Blackwell, and Lou Engle:

Our national security and domestic tranquility depends on secure borders. We must first secure our borders before we can implement a broader just assimilation immigration policy. Secure borders are not closed borders. Violent criminals and drug traffickers take advantage of open borders. Such criminals are a threat to everyone in every community, including Latinos who are disproportionately victimized by them.

After securing our borders, we should allow the millions of undocumented and otherwise law-abiding persons living in our midst to come out of the shadows. The pathway for earned legal citizenship or temporary residency should involve a program of legalization for undocumented persons in the United States, subject to appropriate penalties, waiting periods, background checks, evidence of moral character, a commitment to full participation in American society through an understanding of the English language, the rights and duties of citizens and the structure of America’s government, and the embrace of American values.

We must return to a rational immigration policy that acknowledges that we are both a nation of immigrants and a nation of laws. It is our obligation to provide a just solution to those people who are currently undocumented under the present policy. That solution is neither amnesty nor mass deportation. A just, rational policy would put otherwise law-abiding undocumented persons on one of three paths: one path leads to pursuing earned legal citizenship or legal residency, one leads to acquiring legal guest-worker status, and one leads back across the border including a swift process for the deportation of undocumented felons.

America has an obligation to preserve within her borders the culture that has made her successful. Assimilation is both key to protecting that culture and to the immigrant’s chances of success. History has proven that Latinos are quite capable of rapid assimilation. As a group, they have strong moral convictions, a strong sense of family, and a strong work ethic.

A just assimilation immigration policy respects the traditions held by people of many backgrounds that make up America while recognizing the importance of a shared language, history and cultural values. Those who choose legal citizenship should have the opportunity to fully participate in the American dream by removing any barrier to achieving those dreams. America is not a nation divided. There should be no Black America, White America, Latino America, or Asian America. There is one America made up of many races and ethnicities with a common history, culture, and values. Although Americans may speak many different languages, they share English as their common language. The immigration process should provide a just assimilation by teaching English, the history and founding documents of America, and the common values of liberty and justice which are embodied in the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights. Naturalized citizens renounce all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state or sovereignty, and declare allegiance to the United States. They pledge to defend America against all enemies, foreign and domestic, and they pledge to support the Constitution and the laws of the United States.

Let us be clear – an earned pathway to citizenship is not amnesty. We reject amnesty. And we ask those who label an earned pathway to citizenship as amnesty to stop politicizing this debate needlessly and to honestly acknowledge the difference.

Anti-Immigration Group Demands Sen. Graham Admit He Is Gay

One of the strategies we didn't include in our Right Wing Watch In Focus, "(P)reviewing the Right-Wing Playbook on Immigration Reform," was "attempting to out a sitting Republican Senator" because, frankly, we could never have imagined it would come to this.

But here you have the Americans for Legal Immigration PAC attempting to do just, sending out this email demanding that Senator Lindsey Graham admit to being gay as part of its effort to stop him from supporting comprehensive immigration reform:

The national border security organization known as Americans for Legal Immigration PAC (ALIPAC) is officially calling for US Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) to make his homosexual lifestyle public knowledge in the interest of political integrity and national security.

ALIPAC's President, William Gheen, addressed Graham's homosexuality in a speech before thousands of Tea Party supporters on Saturday, April 17, 2010, in Greenville South Carolina where Lindsey Graham has offices. A brief clip of Gheen's speech, which is out of proper context, has already gone viral on YouTube and been reported by Keith Olberman on MSNBC, Metro Weekly, The Guardian, and Metro Weekly without proper permissions or attributions.

"US Senator Lindsey Graham is gay and while many people in South Carolina and Washington DC know that, the general public and Graham's constituents do not," said William Gheen President of ALIPAC. "I personally do not care about Graham's private life, but in this situation his desire to keep this a secret may explain why he is doing a lot of political dirty work for others who have the power to reveal his secrets. Senator Graham needs to come out of the closet inside that log cabin so the public can rest assured he is not being manipulated with his secret."

Senator Lindsey Graham is the lone Republican in the US Senate trying to lobby other Republicans to sponsor a Comprehensive Immigration Reform Amnesty bill, which would legalize millions of illegal immigrants and turn them into competitive workers and voters, when the United States has over 25 million under or unemployed workers. ALIPAC considers Graham's support for Comprehensive Amnesty legislation to be against the wishes of 80% of his constituents and against the best interests of the American people.

Senator Graham served in the US Military, which adopted a policy of 'Don't Ask Don't Tell" regarding homosexuality during the Clinton administration. Prior to the policy change, homosexuality was considered a vulnerability to our national security because those with access to classified information and strategic resources were often blackmailed by foreign powers.

"Barney Frank has more integrity and bravery than Senator Lindsey Graham right now," said William Gheen of ALIPAC. "When you are a US Senator, the public deserves to know what might influence your decisions. Obama and Napolitano know about Senator Graham, now it is time for the rest of the country to know."

ALIPAC, one of America's largest groups fighting against illegal immigration and amnesty, is releasing this full version of William Gheen's speech containing the request for Senator Graham to confess his homosexuality to the public at this link....

And to think, just a few weeks ago Gheen and ALIPAC were almost forced to shut down because they couldn't raise the $30,000 they needed to stay in business and survived only because of some last minute donations.

Sputtering Start to Religious Right's Rebranding

The Freedom Federation’s “Awakening” conference convened at Liberty University on April 15 and 16  with the ambitious goal of transforming America by touching off the greatest religious revival that America or the world has ever known.   Short of that, the gathering was all about rebranding the Religious Right political movement as a “multiracial, multi-ethnic, transgenerational” movement that cares about social justice (sorry, Glenn Beck). In short, the conference was meant to send a message to young and non-white evangelicals: this ain’t your father’s Religious Right.

Given the gathering’s audacious goals, and the number and firepower of participating Religious Right leaders (who it was claimed represented 40 million Americans), attendance was dismal. In fact there’s probably never been a conference with a higher ratio of featured speakers (52) to attendees (a couple of hundred at best, not counting the session that used a regularly scheduled student convocation to give speaker Sam Rodriguez a larger audience). 
Of course, there were plenty of signs that the old Religious Right and its focus on divisive fear-driven politics haven’t gone anywhere.  Speaker after speaker portrayed faith and freedom under relentless attack in America. In spite of repeated assertions that the movement was nonpartisan and would not be co-opted by any political party, it was clear that the top political priorities for these leaders are to help Republicans take back at least one house of Congress in 2010 and to defeat the tyrannical Barack Obama in 2012. Ending abortion and turning back progress toward equality for LGBT people are top policy priorities.
Despite the low turnout, the conference served as an opportunity for organizers to meet and strategize for the 2010 elections, and to try out some new messaging and public relations strategies. Here were the conference’s main themes:
  • Tyranny! Red Alert! America is in big trouble. Freedom is under attack by President Obama and his allies in Congress. And since Obama is no friend of Israel, we’re in trouble with God.
  • Fight! Big threats mean we have to be ready to fight, fight fight. The tea party movement was invoked favorably and, given the turnout, a bit wistfully.
  • Unify. A major theme of the event was the need to ignore major theological differences among speakers and focus on common values such as ending abortion and the Obama administration.
  • Diversify. The conference made a major effort to showcase the Freedom Federation’s claims to be a multiracial, multiethnic, multigenerational movement. 
  • Seek Social Justice. Watch out, Glenn Beck, these right-wingers are eager to portray themselves as a social justice movement.
  • Millennial Generation, saving America is your job.

Preparing For the Inevitable Fight Over Immigration Reform

Yesterday, People For the American Way released our latest Right Wing Watch In Focus entitled "(P)reviewing the Right-Wing Playbook on Immigration Reform" which lays out the attacks the Right used to fight efforts at immigration reform in the past and will undoubtedly deploy again the issue is taken up by Congress in the near future: 

The public debate over comprehensive immigration reform in 2006 and 2007 was marked by appalling anti-immigrant rhetoric and was accompanied by a rise in anti-Latino hate crimes tracked by the FBI. In a report last year, the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights called "the legitimization and mainstreaming of virulently anti-immigrant rhetoric" one of the "most disturbing developments of the past few years." Among the pundits promoting "fear and loathing" on cable television was Glenn Beck, who said "our country is on fire, and the fuel is illegal immigration." Since then, the swine flu scare and the deep economic recession in the United States have given right-wing opponents of comprehensive immigration reform new fuel for inflaming anti-immigrant and anti-Latino sentiment. In September 2008, for instance, right-wing pundit Michelle Malkin even blamed "illegal immigrants" for the mortgage crisis.

The 2006-2007 push for comprehensive immigration reform was supported by the Bush administration, much of America's business and labor establishments, and congressional leaders from both parties. But in spite of that broad support, the passage of reform was derailed by right-wing pundits who inflamed anti-immigrant sentiment, some members of Congress who gleefully participated in the fearmongering, and others who were simply afraid to resist it.

In October 2008, the Anti-Defamation League criticized anti-immigrant groups for utilizing the strategies of hate groups and "resorting to hateful and dehumanizing stereotypes and outright bigotry to demonize immigrants." To the categories identified by the ADL we can now add demagoguery over the swine flu virus and exploitation of the nation's economic woes.

Here is a review of the rhetorical strategies used to inflame anti-immigrant sentiment and build political opposition to comprehensive immigration reform.

The report lays out nine specifc attacks the Right has used in the past to kill immigration reform legislation:

1: Appeal to Racial Fear and The 'Brown' Threat to 'White' America - "What is happening to us? An immigrant invasion of the United States from the Third World, as America's white majority is no longer even reproducing itself." - Pat Buchanan

2: Appeal to Racial Resentment by Portraying Immigrant Rights Advocates as Racists -- "[NCLR is] the Ku Klux Klan of the Hispanic people" - Michael Savage

3: Portray Immigrants and Their Supporters as Invaders, Conquerors, Enemies of the U.S. - "The homegrown multiculti-mau-mau-ers know exactly what they believe, and they know exactly what they are doing. They aim to mainstream the 'Stolen Land' mantra and pervert history. They aim to obliterate America's borders by sheer demographic and political force." - Michelle Malkin

4: Portray Immigrants as Criminals and Terrorists - "Illegal immigration" is a "slow-motion Holocaust," and a "slow-motion terrorist attack on the United States." - Congressman Steve King

5: Portray Immigrants as Carriers of Disease and Weapons of Bio-Terrorism - "The next time you eat in a restaurant or sleep in a hotel or motel....just remember to bring your own food, dishes, untensils [sic], glasses, towels, and maybe your own water. The person who cooked your meal or made your bed may very well be the one who picked your fruit and vegetables, yesterday....and we've heard the stories about what they do in the fields....haven't we?" - Mothers Against Illegal Aliens

6: Stop Reform by Shouting 'Amnesty' - "'Comprehensive' is the code word for amnesty." - Pat Buchanan

7: Denigrate Reform Efforts as Vote-Buying -- "The Democrats know it's to their advantage to bring in Third World hordes who will one day become Democratic voters." - Rick Scarborough

8: Portray Anti-Immigrant Stance as 'Pro-Worker' (While Voting Against Worker Interests) -- "If they were not in the country, we wouldn't have to worry about emergency room or health insurance costs at all. And Americans would have these jobs." - Congressman Virgil Goode

9: Push Divisive Black-Brown Wedge - "[Illegal immigration is] the greatest threat to black people since slavery." - Ted Hayes

For those who are committed to passing much-needed immigration reform, it is vital to know the various strategies used by anti-immigrant, right-wing activists in the past ... and that is exactly what our latest report seeks to chronicle and analyze.

Anti-Immigration Activists On The Warparth

Though the topic has fallen off the radar since 2006, it is widely expected that the Obama administration and congressional leaders will try to move forward on comprehensive immigration reform legislation sometime this year.

As such, we can expect to hear more from right-wing anti-immigration groups like Americans for Legal Immigration, which are still active around the country as demonstrated by the group's response to the failure of legislation in New Jersey that would have allowed undocumented immigrants to obtain in-state tuition rates at public universities. 

AILPAC is rejoicing that it has defeated this "globalist plan to restructure America" and vows to "go on offense" and "fire more politicians in D.C. than you can count": 

"This makes about the 20th time we have helped to defeat this aspect of the Globalist plans to restructure America since 2005," said William Gheen, president of Americans for Legal Immigration PAC. "Citizen activism has helped defeat in-state tuition for illegals in every state except for two in the last five years, since we defeated the measure in North Carolina."

In-state tuition for illegal immigrants is part of a Globalist plan to build an economic block in North America that integrates populations and suppresses Americans using hyper legal immigration and rampant illegal immigration as a nation building tool.

"Tonight we celebrate our latest victory in New Jersey and we thank and congratulate our supporters and activists," Gheen said. "Tomorrow we will announce plans to go on offense to reverse in-state tuition for illegals in the states of Nebraska and Texas using legislation and court challenges."

The defeat of in-state tuition for illegal aliens in New Jersey creates an opportunity for the pro-immigration enforcement Americans to return to strategic positions of political offense. After every battle, each side must decide to advance, dig in, or retreat.

"Tomorrow, we go on offense," said Gheen. "Time for the illegal aliens and their supporters to start playing defense in the states and the elections. Tomorrow we advance in Texas and Nebraska!"

ALIPAC plans to release plans to support legislation in Nebraska that will rescind in-state tuition in the state, after some lawmakers sneaked the provision through without significant public knowledge or input two years ago.

ALIPAC also plans to launch support for a lawsuit that has been filed in Texas to rescind in-state tuition and other taxpayer benefits for illegals.

Other plans are being made to circulate and file strong state level comprehensive immigration enforcement legislation such as the laws passed in Georgia, Arizona, Oklahoma, and South Carolina.

"We are going to launch a major initiative in the states as part of our plans to defeat the Amnesty legislation in Washington," said Gheen. "And then we are going to fire more politicians in D.C. than you can count!"

Staver Seeks To Moderate the Right's Stance on Immigration Reform

Last week I wrote a post based on Dan Gilgoff's article about efforts by Mat Staver and Samuel Rodriguez to moderate the Religious Right's position on immigration reform, noting that both were members of the Freedom Federation, which contains groups like the Eagle Forum who have been vehemently opposed to such reform in the past.

Now, Gilgoff has followed-up on this topic and appears as if Staver truly intends to try and get the Freedom Federation and its members to change their position on this issue:

"There was this rhetoric in the last immigration debate that was, frankly, harsh," says Mathew Staver, dean of the law school at Liberty University, founded by the late Jerry Falwell. "We need to understand that we are still a nation of immigrants, and we need to bring people out of the shadows and make them legal."

Staver, who is leading the effort to bring conservative evangelicals and other religious conservatives on board for comprehensive immigration reform, says he's motivated by biblical principles regarding the treatment of foreigners and by a desire to build bridges between the "pro-family" movement and growing ethnic constituencies. But the campaign may wind up dividing religious conservatives, some of whom helped lead the charge against George W. Bush's failed attempt at comprehensive immigration reform in 2007.


Now, Staver is trying to build support among Freedom Federation members for comprehensive immigration reform. Part of his goal is to bring Hispanics into the conservative Christian political fold. "The future of the conservative movement is at stake in the debate about immigration reform," says the Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, who has been helping Staver lobby conservative evangelical leaders on immigration.

At a recent coalition meeting in Washington, Staver had former GOP presidential candidate Mike Huckabee discuss his immigration views, which have been criticized as soft by many conservatives, with dozens of representatives from religious conservative groups. "Huckabee was attacked in the presidential race because he didn't want to remove educational benefits for the children of illegal immigrants," Staver says. "But that's a biblical concept—you don't punish the child for what his parents did."

And it looks like Staver has his work cut out for him, as the Eagle Forum says it's not budging while other members are still making up their minds:

"Many of our members oppose comprehensive amnesty because of their faith," says Colleeen Holmes, executive director of Eagle Forum, the conservative group founded by Phyllis Schlafly. "But this is really about conservatism versus liberalism, and conservatism says you need rule of law." The Eagle Forum opposes a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants ... Some Freedom Federation members, however—like Eagle Forum—remain strongly opposed to comprehensive immigration reform. Others, like Family Research Council Action, are still determining their position.

Considering that many members of the Freedom Federation have openly opposed efforts at immigration reform in the past, Staver's effort to push this issue could end up causing a rift in the movement that, ironically, the Freedom Federation was created in order to heal.

Will Immigration Reform Fracture The Freedom Federation?

Dan Gilgoff reports that efforts are underway to get religious conservatives on board efforts to reform the nation's immigration laws:

Many of the same faith-based groups attacking Obama and the Democrats over healthcare reform's abortion provisions, including the National Association of Evangelicals, the Southern Baptist Convention, and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, are poised to become major players in the president's coming push for comprehensive immigration reform, which would include a path to citizenship for many illegal immigrants. "There is a strong biblical teaching about showing hospitality to the stranger and the alien," says [Galen Carey, chief lobbyist for the National Association of Evangelicals.]


The shift follows an intensive effort by Latino evangelical leaders to lobby their white evangelical counterparts. "My stump speech is that this is not amnesty and that this is a biblical issue," says the Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference. "If you are a devout follower of Christ, you have to support immigration reform." In the years since the last national debate on immigration reform, Rodriguez has met with white evangelical opinion makers like NAE President Leith Anderson and former presidential candidate Mike Huckabee. "This is the same constituency Glenn Beck is appealing to," says Rodriguez.

White evangelical leaders have also been influenced by their increasingly Latino congregations. Though nearly 70 percent of Hispanics in the United States are Roman Catholic, Hispanic evangelicals and Pentecostals are among the nation's fastest-growing religious groups. And politically speaking, conservative evangelical activists see Hispanics, who are generally conservative on issues like abortion and gay marriage, as potential allies. "The only thing that can turn them against us is if they are made to feel unwelcome in social conservative circles," says Richard Land, the Southern Baptist Convention's public policy chief.

In an attempt to get Christian-right groups to back comprehensive immigration reform, Rodriguez is working with the dean of the Liberty University's Law School, founded by the Rev. Jerry Falwell, on an immigration summit for conservatives. "The conservative wing of the Republican Party has to understand that it's impossible to win a national election without Hispanics," says Rodriguez. "And it's impossible to win Hispanics without immigration reform."

Frankly, I don't see that any of these developments will do much to influence the overall right-wing opposition to immigration reform, or move the Religious Right at all.

Richard Land has long been something of an outlier on this issue and the recent National Association of Evangelicals' unanimous resolution backing comprehensive immigration reform is already being attacked by Religious Right groups like the Institute on Religion and Democracy, which blasted the NAE for "adopting political stances in God's name and without consideration for their own churches' members."

The one interesting thing is Rodriguez's plans to host an immigration summit with Mat Staver, dean of the Liberty Law School, as both are members of the Freedom Federation, the new right-wing supergroup.

As we pointed out last month, Rodriguez recently began pushing to ensure that healthcare reform contained coverage for those in the country illegally, which is a position that would not go over well with several other members of the Freedom Federation.

If Staver and Rodriguez do start pushing for immigration reform, one would expect that such an effort would ultimately create a lot of tension within the Freedom Federation coalition itself, which could end up undermining the coalition's very reason for existing, considering that it was created specifically in order to unify the Religious Right.

What to Wear?

Yesterday—Cinco de Mayo—John McCain announced a new Spanish-language section of his campaign website and plans to speak at the National Council of La Raza convention this summer in an effort to win Hispanic voters. While the Republican Party alienated many Latinos with the rise of the talk-radio-fueled anti-immigrant politics that halted debate over immigration reform, the GOP nominee hopes they will look past that:

McCain stressed his candidacy should be a natural fit for many Hispanics, whom he described as patriotic, loyal, family-oriented and appreciative of the GOP's opposition to abortion rights and support of small businesses.

"Everything about our Hispanic voters is tailor-made to the Republican message," McCain said.

And indeed, McCain once seemed “tailor-made” to reach out to Hispanics, as he was the standard-bearer for comprehensive immigration reform, but over the course of the Tancredo-inflected primary, McCain took himself in for an alteration, caving to demands from right-wing activists and converting to an “enforcement-first” position. By shifting to the right, he may have saved his campaign for the GOP nomination, but it’s not clear how he can continue to mollify the anti-immigrant crowd while reaching out to Hispanics.

Indeed, within hours of his announcement, WorldNetDaily was linking McCain to conspiracy theories about “reconquista” and “Aztlan,” asserting that the National Council of La Raza is “a radical Hispanic lobby tied to the movement to reconquer the Southwestern U.S. that was part of Mexico before the Mexican-American War that ended in 1848.”

McCain's Immigration Dilemma

Some GOP strategists are hoping that a John McCain nomination will bolster the party’s appeal to Hispanics after many Republicans jumped on the anti-immigrant bandwagon over the last few years. From the Washington Times:

Two years ago, Republicans fought over immigration and hemorrhaged Hispanic voters. Now they are poised to nominate the one man who can rebuild the Hispanic voter coalition that pushed President Bush twice to victory, the architects of that coalition say.

"I think the only candidate that Republicans have running for president who could retain those votes is in fact Senator McCain," said the Rev. Luis Cortes Jr., president of Esperanza USA, founder of the National Hispanic Prayer Breakfast and a key player in helping Mr. Bush connect with Hispanic voters during his two runs for office.

While McCain did push for comprehensive immigration reform, in his quest to win over the right-wing base he largely abandoned his principled position, as even Cortes admitted. His new “image,” as the AP reports, is enforcement-only:

"He's focusing on enforcement, and in this community, enforcement means deportation, and that means separating more families, and more racial profiling and more of the incredible hardship that is affecting not just immigrants, but native-born Latinos," said Cecilia Munoz of the National Council of La Raza.

It appears McCain plans on walking a tightrope through November, with immigrants and the Hispanic community on one side and the Minuteman wing on the other. His own party may not be too helpful: while the GOP primary-caucus election in Texas on Tuesday may be pro forma, McCain will share the ballot with two anti-immigrant resolutions:

The first measure asks if local, state and federal officials should be required to enforce U.S. immigration laws "to secure our borders." Given the ongoing uproar over illegal immigration, the outcome seems pretty clear.

"I would be shocked if it didn't pass," said Kathy Ward, chairwoman of the Collin County Republican Party.

The second referendum, also related to illegal immigration, calls for legislation to require voters to show photo identification.

The measures won’t become law just yet; rather, they’re a way for the Republican Party to drum up support for anti-immigrant legislation later on:

"We generally look at things we believe the base of the party holds pretty dear," [Mary] Tschoepe [of the State Republican Executive Committee] said. "It gives us a big stick to take to the Legislature. We can say, 'Ninety-two percent of Republican primary voters think a voter ID in order to vote is an important issue. Let's get it done.' " …

Texas legislators are now studying an Oklahoma illegal immigration law that's considered the nation's toughest. People who shelter or conceal undocumented immigrants can be charged with a felony under the law passed last year.

The Earmarks Candidate

In his last State of the Union speech, when President Bush promised to make his top budget priority the trimming of earmarked special projects, it may have seemed like a gimmick; after all, there was no veto threat when his own party had control of Congress and special projects ballooned. But at CPAC this afternoon, the earmarks obsession took center stage, and provided an aimless crowd of activists with a clear path to the only candidate they seem to have left. It began with Rep. Jeb Hensarling, chairman of the right-wing Republican Study Committee in the House, and continued through a panel on the GOP being “lost”: Rep. Jeff Flake, Rep. Thad McCotter, Sen. Tom Coburn, and Sen. Jim DeMint all endeavored to explain that, although earmarks only make up about one percent of the budget, they are a threat “even greater” than that of terrorism, in the words of Coburn. And so they launched, parallel with the war on terror, a “war on pork—the gateway drug,” Coburn said, “to the spending addiction” that in turn will be “bankrupting” the country. The battle against earmarks, as former House Speaker Dick Armey put it, is a method of “leading the Republican Party back to its way.” But in the short term, it was method of leading the CPAC crowd to the GOP candidate. DeMint, as he lectured on earmarks, complained that Republican voters “missed an opportunity of a lifetime” by not rallying around Romney, but he looked through his “tears [!] and disappointment” to a need to oppose Democrats in the general election. Armey groused about McCain’s one-time position on high-end tax cuts, but complimented him on the issue of earmarks, urging activists to “shape” their inevitable nominee—to extract promises. Surprise speaker George Allen—two years ago, speaking as CPAC’s hope for 2008—lauded McCain’s “character” and promised leadership in the war, in appointing judges, and in vetoing earmarks. And Coburn offered his grudging support, saying McCain would have the “courage” to face down Congress (except on immigration, he added quickly). McCain, he said, would appoint “strict constructionist judges” like Bork, Roberts, Alito, and Janice Rogers Brown, and yes, would take on those earmarks. After all that, it was an anticlimax to hear McCain pledge that he “will not sign a bill with any earmarks in it.” But the rest of the candidate’s speech consisted of his effort to make clear to the assembled activists that he himself would emerge from CPAC larded with right-wing policy earmarks. Of course there was his about-face on comprehensive immigration reform and his revelation that he now supports making the “Bush tax cuts” permanent. But more broadly, he promised to fight for “our principles”: from protecting the “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” of “the unborn” to appointing judges like Roberts and Alito. Ignoring Laura Igraham’s dig earlier in the afternoon, McCain told CPAC he had “come to public office as a foot soldier” in their movement, and assured them he remains one today.

Huckabee Out-Tancredoing Himself

“We're going to win South Carolina,” said a confident Mike Huckabee last week, even as he saw his solid lead in the polls dissipating. Perhaps hoping to broaden his base beyond those looking to elect pastor-in-chief, Huckabee is once again repositioning himself further to the right on immigration.

Huckabee’s first rightward stab on immigration last month caused quite a bit of confusion. He adopted a plan from the anti-immigrant Center for Immigration Studies and announced the endorsement of Jim Gilchrist, co-founder of the Minutemen. Dozens of anti-immigrant activists soon denounced Gilchrist’s endorsement—Chris Simcox, the other Minutemen co-founder, called Huckabee’s plan “duplicitous.”

Last week, Huckabee made another attempt by convincing Gilchrist that he supported a constitutional amendment to end birthright citizenship. This, too, was met with confusion, as Huckabee quickly denied that he would push such an amendment, but left open the claim that he would advocate a fringe interpretation that simply writes it out of the Constitution.

Now Huckabee has signed a “no amnesty” pledge from another right-wing group, Numbers USA (through its advocacy arm Americans for Better Immigration). From the Washington Times:

The pledge, offered by immigration control advocacy group Numbers USA, commits Mr. Huckabee to oppose a new path to citizenship for current illegal aliens and to cut the number of illegal aliens already in the country through attrition by law enforcement — something Mr. Huckabee said he will achieve through his nine-point immigration plan. …

yesterday's pledge — signed at a press conference with Numbers USA Executive Director Roy Beck — was an effort to provide answers. It's a major reversal from less than two months ago, when Mr. Beck told The Washington Times that Mr. Huckabee was "an absolute disaster" on immigration during his time as governor. Americans for Better Immigration, another group Mr. Beck runs, has rated Mr. Huckabee's record as "poor." …

But Mr. Beck yesterday said Mr. Huckabee has made a number of key promises going forward, including to not grant illegal aliens long-term legal status; to reject a guaranteed right of return for those who go home voluntarily under his nine-point plan; and to not increase green cards as a way of allowing them to come back more quickly.

"Probably, this is the strongest no-amnesty, attrition plan of any of the candidates," Mr. Beck said.

And as part of a tag-team effort, Gilchrist is back defending his endorsement, similarly promising that Huckabee supports “no amnesty whatsoever.”

These efforts may help Huckabee in South Carolina against John McCain, who continues to take heat for supporting comprehensive immigration reform in the past. But they are still not enough to convince William Gheen of Americans for Legal Immigration PAC, who has been a leading anti-immigrant critic of Huckabee. Gheen has launched an attempt to draft Lou Dobbs, the CNN host with some far-right views on immigration, as a candidate. The dim possibility of a Dobbs candidacy was talked about back in November, but Gheen said his group is prepared to “camp outside his office” to make it happen.

Schlafly: Still Candidate Shopping, but a Tough Customer

Phyllis Schlafly, who has been fighting feminism and liberalism for decades, still appears on 460 radio stations daily. She said she is “still shopping” for a candidate and she made it clear it wouldn’t be easy to win her vote. She had a very long list of demands for any presidential candidate – not only prolife but willing to make a series of pledges (veto Freedom of choice act, veto stem cell research, ban cloning, keep GOP anti-choid plank); not just pro-traditional marriage, but promising to sign legislation banning judges from finding the Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional. Among the many other topics to which she would demand purity from candidates: The rights of parents in public school to keep their kids from learning about homosexuality or Islam. Judges who will stand up against the organized campaign to banish God, the Ten Commandments, and the Pledge of Allegiance from public schools. Reject the kind of comprehensive immigration reform George W. Bush advocated – what she called the Bush-Kennedy amnesty. Back English as our official language.

"The Terrorists Would Prefer to Have Hillary Clinton Elected President"

So says Douglas MacKinnon, writing in Townhall: "The paramount truth most liberals, and most in the media, will not allow to be spoken, is that if you are in favor of comprehensive immigration reform, if you are in favor of ending or scaling back the 'Patriot Act,' if you are in favor of stopping or even criminalizing warrantless wiretaps, if you are in favor of preventing our spy satellites from being used to protect our homeland, if you are in favor of never using facilities such as Guantanamo Bay to house murderous terrorists, if you are in favor of never letting our allies interrogate terrorists, then you are opening up the United States to a horrific terrorist attack. Period."

Right-Wing Think Tank Claims Credit for Immigration Crackdown

The White House, in an apparent attempt to mollify right-wing critics of comprehensive immigration reform, announced last week that it would sharply step immigration enforcement—and at least one group that attacked reform is taking credit for this latest move. Matthew Spaulding of the Heritage Foundation writes:

The Border Security and Immigration Administrative Reform initiative is smart and sensible and deserves to be commended. Virtually all of the policies within it have been proposed by The Heritage Foundation's policy research and analysis.

Upcoming Straw Poll Draws out Right-Wing Attacks

While two of the front-running Republican presidential candidates, Giuliani and McCain, have withdrawn from the Ames, Iowa straw poll, and with Fred Thompson yet to announce his candidacy, the results of the August 11 survey won’t carry too much weight. Even Mitt Romney, who is still in the race, is scaling back his ambitions, hoping he doesn’t embarrass himself with a poor showing against the remaining, less viable candidates: “[W]e're not trying to overwhelm anybody,” he said.

But for those second-tier candidates, Ames is a chance to shine. That’s why it’s no surprise to see Brownback, whose campaign strategy seems to depend on showing strongly in Iowa, coming out aggressively against Romney. In an attack reminiscent of their early jockeying for religious-right favor, Brownback is accusing Romney of being a newcomer to anti-gay politics. In a press release from Brownback’s campaign:

Anti-Immigrant Group's Membership Balloons

The anti-immigrant group NumbersUSA is crowing about its amazing growth: According to the New York Times, the group’s membership has reached 447,000, compared with less than 50,000 in 2004.

The “little-known” outfit has become a key player in the immigration debate, according to the Times, coordinating daily with well-known groups like Eagle Forum and the Heritage Foundation and working closely with Congress. “We’re involved in weekly discussions with Numbers USA and other immigration-control groups as part of a team effort,” said Rep. Brian Bilbray, the successor to Tom Tancredo as head of the Immigration Reform Caucus.

NumbersUSA’s success in capitalizing on opposition to comprehensive immigration reform bills considered in Congress recently stems in part from its efforts to channel raw anti-immigrant sentiments, which congeal around NumbersUSA’s explicitly restrictionist stance, into what Mark Potok of the Southern Poverty Law Center calls a “kinder, gentler” movement:

“Numbers USA initiated and turbocharged the populist revolt against the immigration reform package,” said Frank Sharry, executive director of the National Immigration Forum, a pro-immigrant advocacy group. “Roy Beck takes people who are upset about illegal immigration for different reasons, including hostility to Latino immigrants, and disciplines them so their message is based on policy rather than race-based arguments or xenophobia.”

But it also stems from a savvy – and numbers-intensive – use of the Right’s Internet marketing industry. During the debate over immigration, it’s been hard for conservatives on the Internet to avoid NumbersUSA. Those who subscribe to right-wing e-mail lists – such as those of GOPUSA, NewsMax, and Human Events – have received countless “sponsored” or “third-party” e-mail messages from NumbersUSA over the past months, sometimes multiple copies in the same week. Here’s one received via Human Events, and another similar message sent through GOPUSA. Both feature an “instant poll” on whether “Kennedy’s Illegal Alien Amnesty Should Fail” (95 percent of respondents agree), taking you to a site where you can send a fax to Congress and join NumbersUSA.

These spurts of faxes and e-mails, driven by NumbersUSA e-mail, can have a heady impact on members of Congress. “You have to give them credit: The phone calls, the faxes, the people who show up at town halls and meetings — you have to say NumbersUSA is behind a fair amount of that,” said Sharry of the National Immigration Forum.

Sharry acknowledged NumbersUSA's influence on lawmakers, pointing to Georgia's two Republican senators, Johnny Isakson and Saxby Chambliss. The two, who helped write the immigration bill, were immediately in NumbersUSA's crosshairs. Both have withdrawn their support, saying the bill fails to provide adequate border security.

Buchanan: Immigration Bill Part of New World Order Plot

Echoing other anti-immigrant politicians and activists, Pat Buchanan claims the most recent delay to Senate passage of comprehensive immigration reform is “one of the great uprisings of modern politics” in which “Middle America rose up and body-slammed the national establishment.” But he warns, in true Buchanan style, that the bill’s “authors and backers will never quit” because their real motive is the establishment of a U.S.-Mexico-Canada sovereign entity controlled by “global corporation[s] and the transnational elite” and leading, ultimately, “the death of the American republic.”

For this legislation is part of a larger agenda of a large slice of America's economic and political elite.

What is that agenda?

They have a vision of a world where not only capital and goods but people move freely across borders. Indeed, borders disappear. It is a vision of a "deep integration" of the United States, Canada and Mexico in a North American Union, modeled on the European Union and tied together by superhighways and railroads, where crossing from Mexico into the United States would be as easy as crossing from Virginia into Maryland. It is about the merger of nations into larger transnational entitles and, ultimately, global governance.

Previously, Rep. Virgil Goode (R-Virginia) made the connection between the current immigration bill and the mythical “North American Union” plot. Howard Phillips –  chairman of the Conservative Caucus and at one time an influential activist on the Right – also declared the bill part of such a “dastardly scheme.” Eagle Forum founder Phyllis Schlafly has similarly tried to tie the bill to the "North American Union."

Anti-Immigration Minority Declares America 'Dancing in the Streets' over Setback to Comprehensive Reform

While the effort to pass comprehensive immigration reform in the Senate suffered a setback last week, supporters vowed to continue to pursue a compromise this term. Nevertheless, right-wing activists declared victory. Jed Babbin, editor of Human Events, said it was a “Miers Moment” for the Right, referring to the far Right’s successful campaign to undo Bush’s nomination of Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court. Mark Krikorian praised a “vigilant citizenry” that “inundated” Senate offices, and Phyllis Schlafly’s Eagle Forum credited “overwhelming opposition to this amnesty bill.”

Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) said, “I think there were people dancing in the streets in cities across America [after the vote]. I hope I can see the tape of some of that someday.”

While the Right Wing claims that the people have spoken, as the New York Times points out, polls find broad public support for the Senate bill’s provisions. For example, about two thirds of Americans support legalization of undocumented immigrants, according to the most recent Washington Post-ABC poll – the very provision opponents decry loudly as amnesty.

The effort to pass comprehensive reform continues, but meanwhile, local politicians and activists are working to undermine it. Like national anti-immigrant figures, Butler County, Ohio Sheriff Richard K. Jones declared that “the 'silent majority' was heard after all by federal legislators.” We heard from Jones last year, as he ramped up his personal campaign against undocumented immigrants in his county – putting up billboards and newspaper ads implying grave consequences for hiring “an illegal,” and making mass arrests of Hispanic workers only to release them without charge.

Like his attempts to “bill” the Department of Homeland Security and Mexico for his police expenses supposedly related to immigrants, Jones’s freelance efforts to treat immigration violations as if they were felonies did not seem to accomplish more than a breakdown of police relations with the Hispanic community.

Now Jones is teaming up with a state legislator to oppose the U.S. Senate bill and try to deport more immigrants:

"Let's create stricter state laws to go after employers who hire persons who are in this state illegally," he said. "Also, let's make English the official language of the state. Those who live in Ohio should know our language. Taxpayers should not have to pay for interpreters in schools, and U.S. citizens living here shouldn't have to learn another language."  …

"If we would make it a crime to be in Ohio illegally and local law enforcement could charge offenders with that as a state criminal offense, then we probably could get the federal government to deport those offenders," Sheriff Jones said. "Now is the time for Ohio to show the rest of the country how to deal with immigration problems."

Lawmakers in other states have sought to make illegal aliens subject to arrest under state and local criminal-trespassing laws since U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the Homeland Security agency responsible for deporting illegal aliens, generally does not respond to pick up illegals unless they have committed a crime.

Immigration Bill Causes Friction among GOP Contenders

John McCain, a key figure in efforts to pass comprehensive immigration reform, responded to criticism from fellow presidential candidate Mitt Romney by telling bloggers on a conference call,

Maybe I should wait a couple of weeks and see if [Romney’s position] changes because it’s changed in less than a year from his position before. And maybe his solution will be to get out his small varmint gun and drive those Guatemalans off his lawn.

Politico has the audio. The “varmint” line refers to Romney’s efforts to square his claims of hunting experience with lack of hunting license, while “those Guatemalans” are presumably those employed by Romney’s landscaper.

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comprehensive immigration reform Posts Archive

Peter Montgomery, Friday 06/14/2013, 2:02pm
A group of conservative evangelical leaders has been pushing their fellow conservatives to embrace immigration reform, in part as a way to make the Religious Right and the Republican Party more appealing to the nation’s growing Latino population. Ralph Reed has been among those supporting the idea of a comprehensive reform bill, but at his Faith & Freedom Coalition’s “Road to Majority” conference in Washington DC, many of the “Teavangelical” activists – people who are part of both the Tea Party and Religious Right movement – aren’t... MORE
Peter Montgomery, Thursday 06/13/2013, 4:27pm
Four of the Tea Party’s favorite senators – Rand Paul of Kentucky, Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, Mike Lee of Utah, and Marco Rubio of Florida – addressed the kick-off lunch for this year’s “Road to Majority” conference, which is sponsored by Ralph Reed’s Faith & Freedom Coalition. Rand Paul made his case for a humbler foreign policy, suggesting that anti-abortion “pro-life” advocates should also think about the lives of 18- and 19-year old soldiers sent abroad before applauding a politician who talks with bravado about pre-emptive wars.... MORE
Peter Montgomery, Thursday 05/30/2013, 1:56pm
With immigration reform moving toward a vote in the Senate, anti-immigrant forces are ratcheting up their rhetoric.  On Wednesday night, Eagle Forum hosted an “emergency” phone briefing intended to spur grassroots lobbying by their activists.  It featured dire warnings about the Senate bill spelling doom for America, attacks on pro-reform Sen. Marco Rubio, and a joking suggestion that activists planning a visit to Sen. Susan Collins’ office “shoot her.” Joining Eagle Forum’s Colleen Holcomb were Stephen Miller (standing in for his boss Sen. Jeff... MORE
Peter Montgomery, Tuesday 05/08/2012, 5:11pm
The Republican National Committee’s Hispanic Outreach Director Bettina Inclan sparked a mini-firestorm today when she told reporters that she could not comment on Romney’s immigration positions because “he’s still deciding what his position on immigration is.”  She later tried to clean up the mess by tweeting that she was mistaken, and that his position was clear, linking to his website.  Unfortunately for Romney and for the RNC’s Hispanic outreach, his position is all too clear: he opposes not only “amnesty” but all “magnets... MORE
Brian Tashman, Tuesday 12/21/2010, 12:32pm
The House Republican Leadership recently announced that incoming Pennsylvania Congressman Tom Marino and Arkansas Congressman Tim Griffin have been assigned seats on Rep. Lamar Smith’s Judiciary Committee. Marino and Griffin, who were profiled in Right Wing Watch’s The Ten Scariest Republicans Heading to Congress, are peculiar picks for a committee which has “jurisdiction over matters relating to the administration of justice in federal courts, administrative bodies, and law enforcement agencies” since both Republicans were dogged by corruption and ethics scandals... MORE
Brian Tashman, Friday 12/03/2010, 12:18pm
As the House is set to vote on the DREAM Act, right wing commentators and politicians are going into overdrive to disparage and vilify the bill. The DREAM Act provides a pathway to legal status to students and military servicemembers to the children of illegal immigrants who were not born in the country. Individuals considered for citizenship under the latest proposal cannot be older than 29; must have lived in the US for at least five consecutive years, have a clean record, and “would limit individuals from being able to sponsor family members for U.S. citizenship, among other... MORE
Brian Tashman, Tuesday 11/16/2010, 2:13pm
Following the election, RWW will bring you our list of the "The Ten Scariest Republicans Heading to Congress." Our ninth candidate profile is on Tom Marino of Pennsylvania: In 2007, Tom Marino resigned from his position as US Attorney in Pennsylvania after a corruption scandal clouded his career and raised questions about his honesty. Marino had used his official title as US Attorney to provide a reference in 2005 to his “close friend,” convicted felon Louis DeNaples, who was trying to win the state gaming commission’s approval to open slot machines at a resort he... MORE