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Momentum is building for immigration reform. More than 100 top GOP donors signed a letter to Republican lawmakers this week, asking them to pass immigration reform that addresses the 11 million. House Republicans are coming out in support of citizenship. But Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL), who fancies himself the leading anti-immigrant voice in Congress, is undaunted. In a new memo to his GOP colleagues, Sessions writes that Republican support for immigration reform is “nonsense,” and wants his party to adopt a message of “humble and honest populism” in order to kill the reform effort.
In Sessions’ mind, what Republicans need to do is connect with working-class voters who feel left out of the immigration reform process and turn them against the legislation. As his memo begins:
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.
It’s a step up from claiming that the GOP lost the last election because they didn’t win enough white voters, but really? The GOP thinks it can attract more voters when it’s the kind of party that calls young immigrants drug runners (with “calves the size of cantaloupes”), votes in favor of deporting them, while refusing to take action on immigration reform—an issue which 88% of all Americans support?
Furthermore, the thought of Jeff Sessions leading the GOP on the path of “humble and honest populism” toward working-class-voter nirvana is laughable. Sessions is the guy who wanted to set the bar for citizenship so high, 70% of his own Alabamian constituents wouldn’t have qualified. It’s hard to see when Senator Sessions has been a friend to the working class, ever. During the last few sessions of Congress, he voted against the Middle Class Tax Cut Act, the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act, the Paycheck Fairness Act, Wall Street Reform, The Unemployment Compensation Extension Act, and twice against the Stop the Student Loan Interest Rate Hike Act. He has spent his career crusading against food stamps, suggesting that opposition to cutting them is “immoral” and mocking those why rely on the program by asking “why don’t we just pay for your clothes?”
Sessions has a 12% lifetime rating from the AFL-CIO, which found him to be voting against the interests of American workers on 8 out of 9 votes in 2012. Since 2000, Sessions has voted at least 7 times against increasing the minimum wage, once claiming that it “may even do damage.”
And now he is going to lead the GOP toward humble and honest populism. Does he even know what that looks like?
At least Sessions appears to have stopped calling immigration reform the product of special interests.