John Feehery: Speaking Engagements


Immigrant Bashing Is a Political Loser

Posted on May 21, 2014
Nashville Downtown

The cab driver who picked me up at the Airport was from Pakistan.  The waitress at the restaurant was from Cuba.  The Uber X driver was a student from Ghana.

I am in Nashville, participating in a panel discussion on the future of immigration reform.

And the visible signs of the need for immigration reform are all around me.

Nashville is an international city, a destination for tourists and future country western folk singers from across the globe.  Last night, I was in Tootsies, the iconic country bar, and a customer offered 75 Euros if the fiddler would fiddle “The Devil Went Down to Georgia” as fast as she could.   She gladly accepted.

They speak with a deep twang here in the middle of Tennessee, but they appreciate the value of the Euro, just as much as they appreciate the value of the immigrant.

This isn’t just the sentiment in Nashville.  Polls show that most Americans agree that we need to fix our broken immigration system.

According to one poll in the New York Times, “seventy-one percent of American voters said they supported reform, with 12 percent strongly opposed and 16 percent somewhat opposed. Seventy-three percent said comprehensive immigration reform was important in determining which candidate they would support.”

A new Politico poll of the most competitive Congressional districts confirms those numbers:  “Comprehensive immigration reform enjoys broad bipartisan support, but is particularly intense among Hispanic voters, who are most likely to weigh the issue heavily as they assess candidates, according to a new POLITICO poll of voters in places with the most competitive House and Senate races.

Seventy-one percent of likely voters surveyed — and nine of 10 Hispanics — said they back sweeping change to immigration laws. The support spans party lines: 64 percent of Republican respondents back comprehensive immigration reform, as do 78 percent of Democrats and 71 percent of independents.”

Last night was a bad night for the Tea Party.  Some Tea Party groups (but not all) have come out hard against immigration reform, but those groups had an especially hard time last week.  The anti-immigration forces tried to make Renee Elmers an example of what happens to Republicans in a deep red district who actively support immigration reform.  She won by 18 points.  So much for that.   Sam Johnson, a proponent of immigration reform in Texas won early this year by 30 points.

Some Tea Party leaders are getting the drill.  Sal Russo, the leader and founder of the Tea Party Express, came out big in favor of immigration reform.  As an editorial in a Arizona newspaper put it:  “Earlier last week, Sal Russo, co-founder of the Tea Party Express called on conservatives to lead reform efforts that include legalization for the 11 million undocumented residents. His criteria — paying taxes, passing a background check and other requirements — differ little from the path to citizenship denounced as "amnesty" by opponents of the Senate reform bill that passed last summer.”

This is what Larry Kudlow, the conservative pro-growth guru and former Reagan Administration figure, wrote about Russo and the move among conservatives to fix the broken system:
Tea Party activist Sal Russo offered an eye-opening remark last week: "Conservatives should be leaders in the immigration-reform movement." Then tax-reform activist Grover Norquist organized a media conference call, in which he reinforced his support of immigration reform. American Conservative Union chairman Al Cardenas joined in that call, as did Robert Gittelson, president of Conservatives for Comprehensive Immigration Reform.

In recent days, support for legal status for undocumented immigrants was also voiced by Sen. Rand Paul, Texas Gov. Rick Perry and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush — all GOP presidential contenders.

House Speaker John Boehner has denied making any clear commitment to the White House to overhaul immigration, distrustful that President Barack Obama will enforce a deal combining border security with legalization and possibly citizenship. But Boehner has laid down clear immigration-reform principles that have proven widely popular.

So the political tide among conservatives and Republicans may be turning in favor of immigration reform. As a longtime supporter of reform — who believes that immigration is a pro-growth issue — I am delighted to see these developments.

All the recent polls say immigration reform is popular. A survey by the Partnership for a New American Economy shows that around 70 percent of Republicans who identify with the Tea Party movement support immigration reform. They back the idea of undocumented immigrants obtaining either legalization or a path to citizenship. And 76 percent of surveyed Republicans support improved border security and letting immigrants remain in the U.S., while 69 percent say they would also support a candidate who backs broad reform.

Other polls from Gallup, CNN/ORC, Fox News and CBS News agree. In fact, the Fox News poll indicates that more than two-thirds of Americans support a pathway to citizenship and reject mass deportation.

Grover got into a nasty argument with radio talk show host Laura Ingraham about immigration reform.  Outside of Mark Levin and Glen Beck, she has become the most virulent opponent of fixing our broken immigration system.

She must think being an immigrant basher is good for ratings.  She can’t seriously believe that our immigration system is fine as it is.  Her grandparents were immigrants from Poland.  I wonder how they would feel about her immigrant bashing.

Another interesting tidbit about Ingraham.  She was once engaged to be married to Dinesh D’Souza, the conservative film-maker who just pled guilty to campaign finance fraud.   D’Souza was born in Bombay, India, and is, wait for it, an immigrant.

Maybe she is working out some issues with him.   I don’t know.  But in any event, immigrant bashing doesn’t work politically, even in a Republican primary.  Being pro-immigration reform does work, even with conservatives.