Conservatives Look to Re-frame Immigration Fight with Rival Proposal

House conservatives crafting their own immigration proposal to vie with a document Speaker John Boehner is poised to release as the GOP's position on the issue are focusing on enforcement of current laws and providing economic assistance to unemployed Americans before providing legal status to illegal immigrants, officials with knowledge of the deliberations said. 

One House GOP aide in a conservative office connected to the effort said various drafts of alternative principles circulating now will hone helping unemployed or underemployed Americans first. The aide added there is widespread concern in the House GOP conference, especially among conservatives, about President Barack Obama’s administration’s unwillingness to enforce the law.

“A couple sets of alternative immigration principles are circulating, putting emphasis on getting Americans back to work before bringing in thousands of guest workers and on enforcing current laws before passing additional ones that the Administration won’t enforce,” the aide told Breitbart News in an email. “Many are concerned about executive overreach and selective enforcement of existing laws. There is also concern that immigration proposals are moving away from the intent of the Constitution and are establishing long term problems.”

Another House GOP aide from a different office working on the alternative principles effort confirmed that the forthcoming conservative immigration principles will focus on enforcement and on the effect of immigration policies on American workers.

“This is an opportunity to ensure an enforcement first approach without sacrificing our constitutional conservative principles,” that second aide said. “Instead, leadership is crafting an immigration platform without consulting conservatives in the House. It’s simply bad politics and bad policy to push any form of amnesty when the border is not secured and with 92 million Americans outside the workforce.”

The focus on the economic impacts of amnesty and a massive increase in legal immigration in these forthcoming conservative principles echoes concerns 16 House GOP members, led by Rep. Mo Brooks (R-AL), raised in a letter on the matter to President Obama earlier this month.

“Rapidly expanding unskilled immigration – at a time when factory work and blue collar jobs are disappearing – would represent the final economic blow for millions of workers who have been struggling to gain an economic foothold,” those members wrote to Obama in early January. “Yet, despite this jobs crisis for American workers, the White House continues to advocate that CEOs and business executives seek lower cost labor. The White House has entertained a parade of high-powered business executives to discuss immigration policy, all while shutting out the concerns of everyday wage-earners who overwhelmingly oppose these measures. You even released an economic report saying that the ‘hospitality and leisure industry’ needs ‘legislation that would legalize workers in the U.S. and facilitate the lawful employment of future foreign-born workers,’” the members wrote. 

According to the Department of Labor, the workforce participation rate is the lowest it has been since 1978 -- a period of 36 years. Nearly 100 million Americans are not in the workforce. Also according to DOL, the unemployment rate is higher today than at any time since 1986 with the exception of a brief spike at the height of a recession in 1992-1993. 

Immigration hawks argue that those circumstances require policies aimed first and foremost at getting those Americans back to work. Economists, generally speaking, say increasing immigration would marginally increase the size of the economy while depressing wages, especially for low-income workers. 

According to a recent report in the Wall Street Journal, the House GOP leadership is drafting an immigration principle document that “voices support for the major planks of the comprehensive bill that cleared the Senate last summer.”

Those “planks” include, according to the WSJ’s Laura Meckler, “legal status for undocumented immigrants” and more visas for various different industries that want more foreign workers.

House GOP leadership officials involved in the drafting of their principles include Speaker John Boehner, Majority Leader Eric Cantor, Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy, Budget Committee chairman Paul Ryan and Judiciary Committee chairman Bob Goodlatte.


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