The new chairman of the Congressional Immigration Reform Caucus is targeting freshmen and conservative Democrats as a top priority, telling them if they don’t oppose their party leaders’ push for legalizing illegal aliens, they will lose their newly won majority.
“I think amnesty is the fastest track to minority status for the Democrats,” said Rep. Brian P. Bilbray, California Republican, who took over the caucus earlier this year and is appealing to Democrats’ self-interest to persuade them to embrace restrictions on immigration, rather than amnesty.
“I reached out to the Democrats, met with them personally and said, ‘I’ll help you,’” Mr. Bilbray said during an interview at his Capitol Hill office. “Many Democrats will not survive the next election if they embrace amnesty.”
After eight years under the leadership of Rep. Tom Tancredo, Colorado Republican, who helped make immigration a major national political issue, Mr. Bilbray said he wants to broaden the group’s appeal. He said he sees himself having to fight both parties on the issue, since Republicans want cheap labor for businesses and Democrats think illegal aliens will become Democratic voters when they gain citizenship.
He also said President Bush is taking the wrong approach in negotiating with Democrats on a bill, saying if Mr. Bush expects Republicans to support the war on terrorism, “he ought to be decent enough to talk to us on immigration before he cuts a deal with Senator [Edward M.] Kennedy.”
He also said the government needs to take a new look at the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986, which was designed to increase enforcement and give illegal aliens in the country—about 3 million at the time—legal status. He said amnesty was achieved, but enforcement was not.
Mr. Bilbray said denying jobs to illegal aliens so they end up leaving the country of their own accord is “the only proven solution.” He said he supports a future temporary guest-worker program, but only after the government has proved it can enforce immigration laws both on the border and in the nation’s interior.