by Jonathan Strong
Capitol Hill insiders widely consider President Obama’s rumored plan to unilaterally extend amnesty to as many as five million of illegal aliens to be political suicide, essentially ceding control of the Senate in a single act. But a key question has been whether elite Republicans are willing to deploy the issue in weaponized form.
A statement from Brad Dayspring, spokesman for the National Republican Senatorial Committee, suggests the answer is yes.
“Executive amnesty would not only subvert the law, but depress wages, and hurt the poorest Americans most of all – including legal immigrants looking to rise into the middle class. Workers are hurting,” Dayspring said.
Bits of the statement appeared in a spate of stories about the GOP’s recently increased willingness to seize on immigration in close Senate races, the chief example being New Hampshire candidate and former Sen. Scott Brown.
But the full ideological import of Dayspring’s words seem to have passed by largely unnoticed.
The remarks are notable because while the law-and-order side of border security has always been a staple GOP talking point, the economic impact of increased immigration on wages is a secondary and disputed aspect.
Led by Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL), immigration hawks have spent years arguing that increasing immigration depresses wages for American workers.
Others, like Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) argue increasing immigration will increase the size of the economy, creating a “rising tide that lifts all boats.”
The effect of millions of people living and working in the country illegally on the rule of law may be its most important one, but the economic impact is more likely to resonate with the white, blue collar “Perot voters” that Mitt Romney did poorly with.
If the big-money GOP campaign machinery embraces the line, it could pay serious dividends in November. But the rhetoric also carries a cost: its logic makes it more difficult to back away from next year, when many Republicans had hoped to return to immigration reform.
With the border crisis having significantly changed the political landscape on immigration, maybe the embrace is recognition that any “Gang of Eight”-type bill is doomed for the next few years. Or perhaps the effectiveness of such attacks are just too tempting for the GOP operative class. Whatever the explanation, it’s a truly remarkable shift.
Here’s Dayspring’s full statement:
From a political perspective, the President was first elected by promising to be a consensus builder. Today, Obama’s approval on the immigration issue is at record lows (worse than almost every other issue). In short, he has no legal authority to grant “executive amnesty” and little public support to do it. The only conceivable explanation for the President to take such an unprecedented and drastic action would be that he has already conceded the Democrats’ Senate Majority and wants to get ahead of 2015. Executive Amnesty would be the political equivalent of nuclear explosion for Democratic candidates like Mary Landrieu, Kay Hagan, Mark Pryor and Jeanne Shaheen. Democrats are terrified of this issue. President Obama’s Executive Amnesty would inject adrenaline into an electorate already eager to send him a message of disapproval.
The “Economy” means different things to voters (affordability, security) & immigration is viewed by many as part of the overall economic equation. Executive amnesty would not only subvert the law, but depress wages, and hurt the poorest Americans most of all – including legal immigrants looking to rise into the middle class. Workers are hurting. The share of Americans in the workforce is at its lowest level in nearly 4 decades. There are 58 million working-age Americans who aren’t working. Median household income has dropped $2,000 since 2009. Wages are lower today than in 1999.
The House passed bills to block President Obama’s planned executive amnesty and to provide emergency funding to deal with the crisis and reduce wait times for children caught in the system, yet Senate Democrats like Mary Landrieu, Jeanne Shaheen, and Kay Hagan voted with Harry Reid to block it from coming to a vote. Bruce Braley and Gary Peters opposed the House bill and are therefore complicit in any Executive Amnesty President Obama attempts. In short, these Democratic candidates will be responsible for President Obama’s Executive Amnesty. They will be complicit in slashing wages and making it even more difficult for unemployed Americans trying to get a job to find one. For years, Americans have begged for the laws to be enforced and for a just and fair system of immigration that serves everyone’s best interests. We need to grow our middle class, but Democrats’ complicity in Obama’s Executive Amnesty – an extreme position if there ever was one – will permanently hollow it out.
- Just 31 percent of Americans approve of the president’s handling of the immigration issue, according to a June 20 Gallup poll.
- An August CBS News poll found the same thing, only 31% approve of the job Obama is doing on immigration.
- Polling from Fox News, which has trend data going back to 2010 on this issue, shows that Obama’s approval on this issue is at the lowest point of his Presidency.
- According to a late July poll by the Associated Press and GfK Public Affairs, President Obama’s approval/disapproval rating on the issue has slipped from 38 percent in May, to 31 percent in July. 67 percent of voters consider the issue “extremely” or “very” serious. Currently President Obama is underwater by 37 points. Republicans are now more trusted on handling immigration policy, a 10-point swing since mid-May.
- Majorities in the NBC-WSJ Poll from August say that we do not have the resources and these children should be sent home, while 55 percent in the AP-Gfk Poll from July say that the U.S. does not have an obligation to offer asylum.