House Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s GOP has moved the party’s promised immigration reform bill through the judiciary committee, but it now faces a minefield on the House floor placed by Rep. Thomas Massie (R-KY) and a bloc of pro-migration, business-backed, establishment Republican legislators.
Massie announced his obstacle to the 137-page bill — a section that requires employers to use the federal E-Verify database to verify that job-seeking are not illegal migrants:
Massie’s objection to the E-Verify program is an ideological stance, where he is “seeking some kind of Utopia rather than trying to get the best arrangement you can [realistically] get in the actually existing world,” said Mark Krikorian, the director of the Center for Immigration Studies. “It is Debate Club libertarianism,” not practical policies in search of plausible gains, he said.
But Massie’s objection is just one of many GOP-laid landmines that the Republican leaders must clear before they can pass the bill from the House.
The judiciary committee’s bill passed the committee on April 19. But GOP leaders are negotiating with various legislators to ensure majority passage in May.
The judiciary bill must also be merged with a pending bill being drafted by the House Committee on Homeland Security, chaired by Rep. Mark Green (R-TN).
If the joint bill passes the House, it likely will be model legislation for the 2024 GOP presidential candidate.
That means the two-bill package will be either written into regulations by a GOP-run White House in 2025, be implemented by appropriators by a GOP Congress in 2026, or even partway passed into law by the Senate.
Any of those gains would be a victory for voters after four years of Biden’s effort to flood the nation’s labor and housing markets with roughly one migrant for every American birth.
Business groups are using their clout in the GOP caucus to remove some of the most important curbs in the bills.
They have a lot of clout because the GOP has a tiny majority of fewer than 10 members. If even just five Republicans vote with unified Democrats, they can stop a bill — although at the cost of alienating the voters that GOP legislators need to keep their majority.
That legislative sabotage is possible because many GOP members prioritize the interests of employers and donors — often above the interest of ordinary Americans outside their district.
For example, Rep. Tony Gonzales from Texas says he wants any immigration bill to let employers import endless low-wage migrants for the jobs that would otherwise go to ordinary, better-paid Americans.
That goal is being delivered by Biden, who is using the parole and asylum loopholes — plus the legal immigration and visa-worker programs — to import roughly one migrant for every American birth in 2022.
On April 19, the New York Times provided Gonzales with its loudspeaker:
The border bill “has a long way to go before it hits prime time,” Representative Tony Gonzales, Republican of Texas, told reporters this week, warning that it would be foolhardy for G.O.P. leaders to press ahead with immigration legislation that stood no chance of passing Congress, given the party’s slim majority in the House.
“In this Congress, five votes is 100,” he said.
Gonzales is backed by other business-backed Republican legislators, including Rep. Maria Salazar (R-FL) and Rep. Juan Ciscomani (R-AZ),
In contrast, the bill is being pushed by mainstream Republicans, including Rep. Tom McClintock (R-CA), Rep. Chip Roy (R-TX), and Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH), the chairman of the House judiciary committee.
The reform bill is backed also by pro-reform groups, including the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR).
These pro-reform groups strongly support the E-Verify measure that is opposed by Massie:
Democrats are eager to stop the flagship measure — and they are trying to widen GOP splits over the details of the bill.
For example, Democrats are playing up objections by Gonzales from Texas, who has complained about new curbs on the asylum floods caused by Biden’s border chief, Alejandro Mayorkas.
Democrats are also trying to split the GOP by spotlighting the planned E-Verify curbs on the hiring of illegals by farm companies. Those curbs are being denounced by Rep. Dan Newhouse (R-WA), who owns several orchards in Washington state, according to the New York Times:
It’s necessary to “have a legal pathway for people to come in and be able to work,” said Representative Dan Newhouse, Republican of Washington State, himself a farmer, in an interview. He noted that Congress would have to authorize new immigrant visas alongside mandating E-Verify to avoid a devastating blow to the agricultural sector.
Current law allows Newhouse and other farmers to import an unlimited number of H-2A visa workers at wages set by the federal government. Many foreign workers are treated very badly in the poorly managed program. But U.S. farmers also say the H-2A wages are too high — and are pushing for legislation that would recruit and pay foreign workers with slices of Americans’ citizenship instead of farmers’ revenues.
As expected, Rep. Adam Schiff (R-CA), slammed the E-Verify plans in the hope that it would bolster opposition by GOP members such as Newhouse and Rep. Mike Simpson:
Amid the pressure, many GOP members are now zigzagging between business donors and the GOP’s voters while the GOP leaders try to rally them for a near-unanimous vote.
The zigzagging allows the members to display support for both sides, so minimizing their political risks. But McCarthy wants to pass the bill, so every member will need to align themselves with voters or the donors, sooner or later.
Yet the GOP members can cover their track by declaring public support for a reform bill while quietly objecting to a minor element.
Business groups can block or neutralize useful legislation if they can use their economic clout to create a yes-but-not-this-bill caucus of 10 to 15 legislators.
But many GOP members face tough pressure from local employers who provide the medium-size donations that fill out most campaign accounts. For example, Rep. Nancy Mace (R-SC) told the Washington Post that she wants more imported seasonal workers to aid employers:
I’ve got to tell you in my district, H-2B visas are huge in the tourism industry. And when we have these arbitrary [annual H-2B] caps that are set, we have many businesses — small businesses especially — that can’t hire enough employees for the tourist season. These [foreign] people come here and they work after six to nine months they go back home. And that’s an idea that most Americans can support but again, by only focusing on border security, we’re we’re ignoring other issues that are out there.
Similarly, GOP representatives who rely on the agriculture industry are zigzagging as they try to force down wages paid to H-2A visa workers amid growing international competition. That group is led by Rep. Dan Newhouse (R-WA), who owns orchards in Washington State.
Left-wing legislators and progressive journalists praise the business groups who are demanding more wage-cutting migration.