An event touting itself as an evening of immigration reform discussion with a “diversity of opinion” turns out to be slanted heavily towards “comprehensive immigration reform.” The BuzzFeed Brews Special Edition: Immigration Summit, sponsored by the Charles Koch Institute, will take place Tuesday, May 14th from 6 PM – 8 PM Eastern Time. The Charles Koch Institute is an educational offshoot of the Charles Koch Foundation.
It’s an unusual pairing: BuzzFeed Editor-in-Chief Ben Smith has a reputation for liberal bias (he recently blamed “the right” for conditions of Kermit Gosnell’s abortion clinic) will be the moderator; Charles Koch, founder of the libertarian CATO Institute, is one of the people most reviled by the left.
The goal of the event is described as follows:
[W]e believe one of the best ways to turn conversations into solutions is through the challenge of assumptions and exchange of ideas. Our event on immigration aims to do just that by bringing together a diversity of opinions for a thoughtful dialogue.
At first glance, the panel appears diverse: the six invitees include a Democrat politician, a Republican politician, two members of conservative organizations, one from a liberal Hispanic/Latino organization, and one from a libertarian think tank.
Looking closer, however, five of the invitees are strongly in favor of the comprehensive immigration reform/amnesty package being put forward by the “Gang of Eight” in Congress. Only one guest–from The Heritage Foundation–has been critical of the proposed immigration reform package. Additionally, an illegal immigrant who is an award-winning journalist will be assisting in broadcasting the event.
Here’s the lineup:
Clarissa Martinez, Director of Immigration & National Campaigns at National Council of La Raza: NCLR has been funded by George Soros’s Open Society Foundation, describes itself as “the largest national Hispanic civil rights and advocacy organization in the United States,” and has been a major supporter of the current immigration reform bill. La Raza and Ms. Martinez were directly involved in a controversial memo that granted de facto amnesty by changing ICE policy in 2012. Ironically, La Raza joined with the NAACP and other institutional left to protest in front of the Koch Industries offices months ago, accusing the Kochs of savaging democracy.
Mario Lopez, President at Hispanic Leadership Fund: The group describes itself as center-right and says its mission is “strengthening working families by promoting common-sense public policy solutions rooted in free enterprise, limited government, and individual freedom.” The group is strongly supportive of “comprehensive immigration reform.”
The advisory board of the Hispanic Leadership Fund includes Grover Norquist, who has been strongly critical of the recent Heritage Foundation report that claims that the proposed 800+ page immigration reform bill will have a long-term cost of over $6 trillion. Lopez was involved in what some are calling a “smear of immigration hawks” when he launched a guilt-by-association attack on Mark Krikorian of the Center for Immigration Studies for supposedly not sharing conservative policy goals.
Joaquin Castro: A freshman Democrat congressman from Texas and the twin brother of San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro, the keynote speaker at the 2012 Democratic National Convention. Their mother, Maria “Rosie” Castro, was a community organizer and helped found the socialist, anti-Anglo political group La Raza Unidas (The Race United), whose goal is the “the Liberation of Aztlan, and that Aztlan is composed of five southwestern states; California, Arizona, Nuevo Mexico, Tejas and Colorado.” Joaquin has done a number of talk show appearances and has been described as “the unofficial ambassador on immigration for the Obama Administration.”
Luis G. Fortuño, former Governor of Puerto Rico: A Republican, he is on the Advisory Board of the Hispanic Leadership Fund. In 2007, he supported Gang of Eight member Jeff Flake’s STRIVE act (co-sponsored with Democrat Luis Gutierrez) that included amnesty, saying, “Only a comprehensive immigration reform plan like the STRIVE Act will help us achieve an effective, lasting, and viable solution to the immigration issues facing our nation.”
Jose Antonio Vargas will be live-tweeting the event. Although he’s not a panelist, Mr. Vargas is a participant and is mentioned promimently on the website advertising the event. He’s a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist, as well as an undocumented alien who revealed his illegal status over a year ago. He discusses his status as an unrepentant illegal alien in an essay on his blog entitled Not Legal, Not Leaving.
Alex Nowrasteh, Immigration Policy Analyst at The Cato Institute: CATO has been helping to push the immigration reform bill and has been a harsh critic of The Heritage Foundation’s report. CATO touts the fact that Nowrasteh’s criticism of the Heritage report was cited on MSNBC. Nowrasteh was also cited by Jennifer Rubin’s roundup of Heritage critiques: “[He] accused Heritage of not following years of their own work, which has striven to look at the impact on behavior of changes resulting from reforming the tax code and other innovations.” Breitbart News revealed Nowrasteh’s involvement in coordinated emails with Norquist’s Americans for Tax Reform attacking the Heritage report.
Derrick Morgan, VP of Domestic & Economic Policy at The Heritage Foundation.
The mix of Buzzfeed and Charles Koch would be unusual on almost any other issue but the not-so-subtle goal of the event as demonstrated by its lineup has not gone unnoticed even beyond conservative circles. Dave Weigel notes in Slate:
[A]s a veteran of the Koch-funded Reason magazine, I can report that the libertarian brothers have always put their money behind immigration reform. Maybe that complicates their newfound (well, 3-year-old) role as all-purpose rich guy demons; they’re sponsoring a night of debates intended to nudge along immigration reform.
Expect plenty of nudging at the Koch-sponsored BuzzFeed Brews event; a night of exhibition insider baseball where BuzzFeed Ben Smith underhands softballs to his pro-immigration reform panelists, who will do their best to drill them right at The Heritage Foundation.