In a sharp memo sent this morning to fellow Republicans on Capitol Hill, Senator Jeff Sessions argues that the GOP elite view on immigration–shared by President Barack Obama and Senator Chuck Schumer–is “nonsense.” Instead, Sessions, the ranking member of the Senate Budget Committee, advises his fellow Republicans to adopt a “humble and honest populism.”
Sessions’s advice to his fellow Republicans is clear: Don’t help Obama hurt America. The Republican-lead House is currently working on the Senate-approved immigration bill.
Here’s a copy of the full memo:
Memo: How The GOP Can Do The Right Thing On Immigration—And Win
July 29, 2013
To: Republican Colleagues
From: Ranking Member Jeff Sessions
The GOP needs to flip the immigration debate on its head.
The same set of GOP strategists, lobbyists, and donors who have always favored a proposal like the Gang of Eight immigration bill argue that the great lesson of the 2012 election is that the GOP needs to push for immediate amnesty and a drastic surge in low-skill immigration.
This is nonsense.
The GOP lost the election—as exit polls clearly show—because it hemorrhaged support from middle- and low-income Americans of all backgrounds. In changing the terms of the immigration debate we will not only prevent the implementation of a disastrous policy, but begin a larger effort to broaden our appeal to working Americans of all backgrounds. Now is the time to speak directly to the real and legitimate concerns of millions of hurting Americans whose wages have declined and whose job prospects have grown only bleaker. This humble and honest populism—in contrast to the Administration’s cheap demagoguery—would open the ears of millions who have turned away from our party. Of course, such a clear and honest message would require saying “no” to certain business demands and powerful interests who shaped the immigration bill in the Senate.
In Senator Schumer’s failed drive to acquire 70 votes, he convinced every single Democrat in his conference to support a bill that adds four times more guest workers than the rejected 2007 immigration plan while dramatically boosting the number of low-skill workers admitted to the country each year on a permanent basis. All this at a time when wages are lower than in 1999, when only 58 percent of U.S. adults are working, and when 47 million residents are on food stamps. Even CBO confirms that the proposal will reduce wages and increase unemployment. Low-income Americans will be hardest hit.
Ordinarily, this would be an act of political suicide for Democrats. How can they possibly succeed with a plan that will so badly injure American workers? Perhaps Senator Schumer, the White House, and their congressional allies believe the GOP lacks the insight to seize this important issue, push away certain financial interests, and make an unapologetic defense of working Americans. They seem, in fact, to expect the GOP House to drag their bill across the finish line. Indeed, more than a few in our party will argue that immigration reform must “serve the needs of businesses.” What about the needs of workers? Since when did we did we accept the idea that the immigration policy for our entire nation—with all its lasting social, economic, and moral implications—should be tailored to suit the financial interests of a few CEOs?
Americans broadly oppose further increases to our current generous immigration levels by a 2-1 margin, but the opposition among those earning less than $30,000 is especially strong: they prefer a reduction to an increase by a 3-1 margin. And no wonder: according to Harvard’s Dr. George Borjas, it’s the working poor whose wages have declined the most as a result of high immigration levels.
The GOP has a choice: it can either deliver President Obama his ultimate legislative triumph—and with it, a crushing hammer blow to working Americans that they will not soon forgive—or it can begin the essential drive to regain the trust of struggling Americans who have turned away. As Rich Lowry and Bill Kristol wrote in a joint op-ed, “the Gang of Eight bill unleashes a flood of additional low-skilled immigration. The last thing low-skilled native and immigrant workers already here should have to deal with is wage-depressing competition from newly arriving workers… It’s most important that the party perform better among working-class and younger voters concerned about economic opportunity and upward mobility.”
Like Obamacare, this 1,200-page immigration bill is a legislative monstrosity inimical to the interests of our country and the American people. Polls show again and again that the American people want security accomplished first, that they do not support a large increase in net immigration levels, and that they do not trust the government to deliver on enforcement. The GOP should insist on an approach to immigration that both restores constitutional order and serves the interests of the American worker and taxpayer. But only by refusing any attempt at rescue or reprieve for the Senate bill is there a hope of accomplishing these goals.
Instead of aiding the President and Senator Schumer in salvaging a bill that would devastate working Americans, Republicans should refocus all of our efforts on a united push to defend these Americans from the Administration’s continued onslaught. His health care policies, tax policies, energy policies, and welfare policies all have one thing in common: they enrich the bureaucracy at the expense of the people. Our goal: higher wages, more and better jobs, smaller household bills, and a solemn determination to aid those struggling towards the goal of achieving financial independence.