Pro-Immigration Reform PACS Growing in Influence

Laura Wides-Munoz, San Francisco Chronicle, November 25, 2009

Two fledgling political action committees that support allowing some illegal immigrants to become citizens are raising more money than their immigration-control counterparts, signaling a possible fundraising shift ahead of next year’s congressional races.

Immigrants’ List and ImmigrationPAC, both established less than four years ago, have raised $100,000 combined this election cycle. That’s a relatively small amount in the influential realm of PACs but still more than established groups that back enforcement-only policies, who have seen donations slow to a trickle.

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The power of PACS goes far beyond their direct contributions to candidates. They also wield power by bundling smaller donations from individuals nationwide and directing those funds to politicians sympathetic to their causes.

The PACS–formed by immigration lawyers and other immigrant advocates–are among pro-immigrant groups seeing donations on the rise. Large foundations are donating millions to nonprofits that work with immigrants, although that money can’t be used for campaigns.

Allen Brandstater, head of the PAC Americans Against Illegal Immigration, acknowledged the changing mood. His group, which raised $850,000 during the 2008 election cycle for mostly issue ads and mailers, the most of any of the immigration PACs, is “pretty much dormant right now,” he said. Brandstater blamed the lack of support on the weak economy and on President Barack Obama and the Democratic-led Congress, which he believes are more likely to back legalization.

Brandstater also lamented that some donors have grown wary about associating themselves with his organization because of what he said was negative publicity in 2008.

“In the last election, you were called racist if you wanted to protect the sovereignty of our borders,” he said.

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Kurzban’s group would like amnesty for those already in the U.S.; waivers for laws that automatically bar illegal immigrants from returning to the U.S.; statutes of limitation on some low-level crimes; overhaul of the visa system to accommodate changing demand (such as allowing India to have a few more spots than Switzerland); permission for illegal immigrants married to U.S. residents to adjust their status; and greater judicial oversight of rogue immigration agents.

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