A Flea in the Fur of the Beast

“Death, fire, and burglary make all men equals.” —Dickens

Category: Immigration

Is Our Tim Huelskamps Learning?

by evanmcmurry

Consider these two developments next to each other:

Republican donors were horrified in November after pouring hundreds of millions of dollars into campaigns for president and Congress with nothing to show for it. A year later they’re appalled by how little has changed, angered by the behavior of Republican lawmakers during a string of legislative battles this year capped by the shutdown, and searching for answers.

In conversation after conversation, donors express growing frustration with the party and the constellation of outside groups they’ve been bankrolling. After getting squeezed last year by an array of campaign committees, party committees and disparate super PACs, many of them are still sitting on their checkbooks — a worrisome sign for the party with the 2014 midterm elections fast approaching.

And then this one, on the prospects for immigration reform:

That means Boehner, who struggled to unify his members throughout the shutdown, would have to “divide the conference” to pass an immigration bill, said Rep. Tim Huelskamp, R-Kan.

“That would really melt down the conference,” said Huelskamp, a Tea Party conservative.

Does anybody, including and especially GOP donors and supporters, care what Huelskamp thinks of caucus unity at this point? What’s GOP House unity gotten the GOP or anybody else? At what point will the “only the most conservative, intransigent policy will keep House GOP happy” response no longer matter? Can it be now?

The CBO Has A Nifty New Estimate For Deficit Scolds To Ignore

by evanmcmurry

You already knew this, but now you know know it:

The immigration bill under consideration in the Senate would reduce federal deficits by nearly $200 billion over the next decade, and continue generating savings in the years beyond, even after millions of new citizens became eligible for health-care and welfare benefits, congressional budget analysts said Tuesday.

[snip] Those changes would boost spending on federal programs, including tax credits for low-income families, health-care benefits and law enforcement, the agency found. But those costs would be more than offset by an increase in tax revenue from a larger workforce, it said. In its second decade, when people currently living here illegally would become eligible for federal benefits, the legislation would reduce deficits by as much as $1 trillion, the CBO said.

Now’s when everyone who’s spent the past three years screaming about the deficit as if the building were on fire magically decides that deficit concerns are subservient to demagoguing brown people principle.

For added irony, the response to this is “how will immigrants pay taxes if there are no jobs?!??1?!?!” Putting aside the gradually-improving job market, there are no jobs thanks to our glorious 2010-2013 run of austerity, which artificially restrained job growth, all in the name of lowering—wait for it—the deficit.

John Cornyn Is Going To Kill Immigration Reform, Cuz What Does He Care?

by evanmcmurry

We’ve had seven months of talk about the Republican party “rebranding” itself, and just as many months of people like me saying the problem is not with how they talk about issues (“legitimate rape”) but their actual policy positions. It’s hard not to say stupid things when those stupid things a direct expression of your beliefs.

These two are about to come to a head. John Cornyn—now Texas’ more responsible and reasonable Senator!—has found a way to poison immigration reform: he’s insisting on a whole slew of border security triggers* that must be met before any pathway to citizenship begins, or GOP senators walk. The border security threshold would be impossible to ever satisfy, which is exactly Cornyn’s intent: they would render the entire pathway to citizenship moot. Democrats won’t vote for a bill that doesn’t do any of what they want it to do. There goes immigration reform.

This puts Marco Rubio in a tight spot. If he sticks with the Gang of Eight compromise (that he helped write!), Cornyn and the entire conservative press will hang him out to dry, the bill will likely die in the Senate, and the GOP will get credit for killing it; if he goes toward Cornyn, he loses Democratic support, the bill will be dead on arrival, and the GOP will definitely get the credit for killing it.

There’s nothing here that’s a branding problem. Cornyn doesn’t care how immigration reform plays (though he should); he’s against it, and if these border security triggers don’t kill the bill he can always take one more step to the right. This is what he and a lot of the GOP believes. It’s not a matter of selling, or marketing, or messaging, or anything. It’s a direct expression of the beliefs of the party. And this is on the one issue, immigration, the GOP was supposed to cede to electoral realities.

Marco Rubio had, for a while, been laudable in his efforts to promote the Gang of Eight compromise and smack down misinformation from his own side about the bill, to the continuing consternation of conservative purists who thought he was selling out the party. But in the past week or so, it appears the constant pressure from the right has gotten to him, and he’s started talking about stricter border enforcement standards.* That’s not a messaging problem: he’s losing the policy argument, and if he loses it, no amount of “rebranding” will change it. This is the moment when the GOP either becomes a modern party theoretically capable of winning national elections, or one that plays eternal spoiler to basic governance. Their public statements and messaging and the rest will be purely a result of which path they choose.

* We’re leaving aside for the moment that America doesn’t have a border security or illegal immigration problem.

Is Our Conservative Think Tanks Learning, Massive Racism Edition

by evanmcmurry

So the coauthor of that Heritage Foundation study claiming that immigration reform will cost taxpayers $6.3 trillion—a number that’s about $7.8 trillion too high, according to conservative estimates—turns out to be a giant racist. Whodathunk?

Here’s his thinking, via Jennifer Rubin*:

The average IQ of immigrants in the United States is substantially lower than that of the white native population, and the difference is likely to persist over several generations. The consequences are a lack of socioeconomic assimilation among low-IQ immigrant groups, more underclass behavior, less social trust, and an increase in the proportion of unskilled workers in the American labor market.

This isn’t irrelevant. The Heritage study gets its massively inflated figure in part by assuming immigrants will be on the welfare rolls their entire lives. Assuming they’re genetically inferior is a necessary precondition for that assumption.

You’ll recall in Heritage President Jim DeMint’s USA Today op-ed lambasting former BFF Marco Rubio over immigration that DeMint relied on a 2007 Heritage study by Robert Rector claiming reform will cost around $2.5 trillion, but promised breathlessly that new numbers were on their way. In other words, DeMint could tell his current figure wasn’t doing the trick, and he was casting about for someone who would give immigration a bigger price tag. Beggars can’t be choosers, I guess, though Heritage is now in full retreat mode.

* This blog gives Jennifer Rubin a lot of shit, but she’s been ruthless with the Heritage Foundation over this. Good on her.

Is Our Conservative Think Tanks Learning?

by evanmcmurry

Jim DeMint becomes president of the Heritage Foundation and suddenly the pillars are made of plaster:

In what was almost certainly an unprecedented press call, top fiscal conservatives from Americans for Tax Reform, the Cato Institute, the Kemp Foundation and the American Action Network took what had once been the premier conservative think tank, the Heritage Foundation, to the woodshed for its immigration report that sees trillions in cost and no benefits from immigration reform.

With a more-in-sorrow-than-in-anger tone, Josh Culling of ATR said that while Heritage was a “treasured ally,” its work was a rehash of a flawed 2007 study that ignored all the benefits of immigration reform. Cato’s Alex Nowrasteh was even more outspoken saying “how disappointed” he was that Heritage abandoned conservative dynamic scoring (i.e. the impact a piece of legislation’s impact on the economy). He accused Heritage of not following years of their own work, which has striven to look at the impact on behavior of changes resulting from reforming the tax code and other innovations. “They ignored GDP, they ignored productivity,” he said in reeling off the list of items in the Gang of 8 legislation left out of Heritage. Cato’s study, which did use dynamic scoring, found that immigration reform would add $1.5 trillion in growth over ten years while forcing out 11 million immigrants (the Heritage solution) would lower GDP by $2.6 trillion over ten years.

The prize for candor, though, went to American Action Forum’s Douglas Holtz-Eakin, who stated flatly, “It really misleads.” Without dynamic scoring, H1-B visas, a guest worker program, and the other economic pluses from immigration reform and with a load of ludicrous assumptions (e.g. everyone would qualify for government benefits and take them) Heritage, he said, “gets a really big number.” He continued in describing the Heritage view of immigrants, “There is no American dream. They start in poverty. They end in poverty. Their kids are in poverty.”

But when the battle over immigration begins, this study will still be cited in anti-reform ads in swing states, scaring voters into thinking letting people earn money and pay taxes will somehow be bad for the economy, or that turning immigrants into employees will increase drag on the social safety net. DeMint is essentially doing to conservative thought what he once did to Republicans’ ability to pass policy in the Senate: making it into hard-right gristle.

Metaphor of the Day

by evanmcmurry

Two immigration trains have left the station in the House, but no one knows which one Speaker John A. Boehner wants to eventually arrive on the floor. (via)

Read the whole thing to see the newest jackass trying to capsize immigration reform for no other reason than obstinance.

The GOP’s Immigration Pretzel

by evanmcmurry

The immigration news of the day: a majority of Americans support a pathway to citizenship as part of immigration reform, but that number tanks among Republicans, putting GOP leaders in a bind: they know they need to support some form of immigration reform or forfeit Latino voters for the next few election cycles, but they have a base that finds the idea of citizenship (AMNESTY!) anathema.

The solution being passed around sounds a lot like what Marco Rubio essayed last April, when he was but a spring chicken. As a thought experiment, imagine what would happen if Democrats were proposing the following:

Rubio’s proposal doesn’t put immigrants on the path to citizenship but creates a third level of legal residency, greater than alien but less than citizen.

The howls about bureaucracy and the extra folds of government—to say nothing of the inherent treason of revising standards of citizenship—would be heard from Breitbart Jr. to George will’s column and everywhere in between.

As I said at the time, in no world is creating an extra sub-tier of citizenship conservative, which emphasizes just what a tight spot the GOP finds itself in on this issue.

The GOP’s New Immigration Reform Problem: Obamacare

by evanmcmurry

Building off the last post, in which we saw a group of Republican Senators putting their own electoral chances over the GOP’s rebranding, comes this twist:

Meanwhile, there’s reason to wonder how much even an immigration reform deal will help him with Latino voters as long as his party is also associated with repealing Obamacare. The Los Angeles Times reports that Latinos support Obamacare by a 2-1 margin, and “overwhelmingly see guaranteeing healthcare as a core government responsibility.

This is strange. Obamacare* is a done deal. A vast majority of Republican voters still want it overturned, but that ship sailed with the SCOTUS decision last spring, and disappeared over the horizon with Obama’s reëlection. Why buck a new demographic over something that’s never going to happen?

* Can we go back to calling it the ACA now?

Marco Rubio’s Newest Eject Button

by evanmcmurry

Ladies and gentlemen, the party of leaner, efficient government:

Even as the Sunday shows were alive with predictions that a deal is close on immigration reform, Marco Rubio took the occasion to cast doubt on the prospects for success by joining other Senators who are calling for the process to slow down…In so doing, Rubio is joining with other Senators who are urging a go-slow approach, such as Ted Cruz and Jeff Sessions, who may be urging a slowdown so the armies of the right have time to mobilize and strike fear into any reform-minded Republican officials, killing reform.

Remember, this issue is central to GOP rebranding efforts. In fact, it’s three quarters of the rebranding effort, the last 25% being occupied by “never saying the word ‘rape,’ ever.”

The immigration package is full of reforms with broad public support, bipartisan legislative support, and a drive on behalf of Republicans to get behind a new demographic. It’s now imperiled by two Senators with no fear of a Democratic challenge, and one who’s already looking to vipers of the 2016 GOP primary.

Guns To Solve Illegal Immigration, Everything Else

by evanmcmurry

Is there anything guns can’t do?

“There are 11 million people living here illegally,” [McCain] said. “We are not going to get enough buses to deport them.” Some audience members shouted out their disapproval. One man yelled that only guns would discourage illegal immigration.

No doubt there’s some base metaphor at work here about how illegal immigrants are “invading” America as a burglar invades your home. But still, pause for a moment and consider the practical application of that last phrase. For guns to discourage illegal immigration, we’d pretty much have to be mowing down people attempting to cross the border, which means a person has been given a death sentence simply for allegedly crossing an invisible line in the literal sand.

It should be pointed out here, as it should be pointed out every time we discuss illegal immigration, that border security has been substantially beefed up in the past decade, with much of the reinforcement coming during Obama’s administration, and that illegal immigration, for this and myriad other reasons, has decreased to almost nil. It’s hard to detect any urgent necessity for more guns in this case, unless they’re the hammer to the nail you see everywhere.

Yeah, this is just an Arizonian yelling at John McCain at a rally and thus hardly the paragon of reasoned debate. Still, immigration reform failed in 2007 thanks to this base, and gun control has been effectively destroyed in the past twenty years thanks to this base. “Guns solve illegal immigration” is the exact type of thinking that’s keeping us from solving either problem, so it seems worth refuting anyway.