Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) has sent a thought-provoking new memorandum to his GOP colleagues, laying out how the Republican Party can turn the ongoing immigration debate in Congress around so conservatives win and liberals and Democrats lose.
“The GOP needs to flip the immigration debate on its head,” Sessions writes in the memo. “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.”
Sessions challenges the conventional wisdom and long-held establishment misnomer that Republicans lost the 2012 election because of the Hispanic vote. “The GOP lost the election–as exit polls clearly show–because it hemorrhaged support from middle- and low-income Americans of all backgrounds,” he argues.
“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,” Sessions says Republicans should do to turn the immigration debate around. “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.”
Sessions argues that what Democrats did in the Senate to pass the “Gang of Eight” bill would “ordinarily” be an “act of political suicide” for them.
“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,” Sessions wrote. “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.”
Sessions said that it appears possible Schumer and the Democrats proceeded with such a plan because they think Republicans are not politically smart or intuitive enough to do anything about it. “How can they possibly succeed with a plan that will so badly injure American workers?” Sessions asked. “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.”
Sessions believes that any immigration reform legislation should seek to address the needs of American workers, instead of the needs of businesses. He said it appears that some in the GOP establishment have confused the two. “Indeed, more than a few in our party will argue that immigration reform must ‘serve the needs of businesses,'” Sessions wrote. “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?”
Ultimately, Sessions said, 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,” he said.
He said that lawmakers in the House should not try to save, or fix, the Senate bill. “Like Obamacare, this 1,200-page immigration bill is a legislative monstrosity inimical to the interests of our country and the American people,” Sessions said. “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.”
Any effort to try to fix the Senate bill, he argued, would be “aiding the President and Senator Schumer in salvaging a bill that would devastate working Americans.”
Instead, Sessions believes, “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,” he said.