Immigration Reform 2013: Anti-Immigration Lobby Finds Fewer Conservative Friends On Capitol Hill

Nonplussed by the war drums being beaten by Republicans focused on the variety of scandals against President Barack Obama, one of the president’s major legislative agenda, immigration reform, is moving slowly but steadily through the halls of Congress. Anti-immigration groups are attempting to run interference and defeat the bill, but find that they are facing an increasingly uphill battle.

The anti-immigration lobby is being increasingly outmaneuvered and outfought in this legislative battle. While they could previously count on the support of other factions in the conservative coalition, this time around the anti-immigration lobby progressively appears to have few allies in its struggle.

The biggest anti-immigration organizations are attempting to go on the offensive. Numbers USA, one of the larger anti-immigration reform groups, launched a television and radio-advertising blitz across 16 states on Tuesday that targeting lawmakers that support the current Senate Gang of 8’s bill. They are also encouraging grassroots efforts, urging individual supporters to call, write, email, and fax their senators and congresspersons in order to make their opposition to the immigration reform bill known.

But the anti-immigration lobby is experiencing a pushback from other parts of the conservative coalition. Earlier in May over 100 conservative economists endorsed the immigration reform bill.

The anti-immigration lobby’s strike against the economics arguments for the the bill, a study by the Heritage Foundation, had a badly managed rolled out after it was discovered that one of the co-authors had previously made controversial statements about Latino immigrants. Although some in the rank and file cite it, it has not dominated the conversation in the Beltway like the previous 2007 version of the study.

The degree to which the anti-immigration lobby is facing an organized opposition compared to 2007 is even giving them a slight pause. Mark Krikorian of the anti-immigration Center for Immigration Studies told the Washington Post, "It’s a testament to the other side’s greater preparation over the past couple of years. They lined up people in coalitions more effectively. This time they were more prepared. That’s why in general …they’ve done better."

As a result the immigration reform bill sailed relatively easily through the Senate Judiciary Committee and appears to the primed for a vote by the full Senate in early June. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has said that getting 60 votes for the legislation will be "pretty easy."

Many in the anti-immigration lobby are putting their hopes on the House of Representatives to sink the bill. The Republican-controlled chamber is often seen as the place where the legislation should run aground and its journey come to an end.

However a variety of conservative lobbying groups, from the religious right to the Chamber of Commerce, are expected to flex their lobbying muscle in the House. Grover Norquist, president of the anti-tax Americans for Tax Reform and a leader of the pro-immigration reform conservative said of the effort, "Where is the power of the anti-amnesty groups? It is not in the pews, not in the churches, not in the business community. Every free market group in this town is against them except for Heritage."

Roughly the only ally among conservatives that the anti-immigration lobby can truly count of is elements of the Tea Party, who are also attempting to stop immigration reform.

It is too early to see if the anti immigration reform lobby still has the pull to completely derail this bill. But the even with backup from the Tea Party, the anti-immigration lobby will have to work much harder to stop immigration reform this time around, thanks to their fellow conservatives.

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Gabriel Rodriguez

Gabriel Rodriguez is currently studying for a Masters in Applied Economics at Georgetown. He is a graduate of New College of Florida with a degree in Economics. He is interested in econometrics, statistical analysis, behavioral economics, and developmental economics.

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