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On Immigration Reform, Far Right is Isolated as Bipartisan Center Strengthens

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Yesterday, the Senate Judiciary Committee cast a near-unanimous vote against an amendment from Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL) to restrict future legal immigration.  It underscores the growing irrelevance and isolation of the anti-immigrant movement in this year’s debate.

According to Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America’s Voice:

The anti-immigrant movement thought that their efforts to define and distort the Senate immigration bill combined with the rollout of the Heritage report would kill the bipartisan Senate bill.  Instead of gaining traction, they are going backwards.  It shows that serious legislative debate is the center of the action, and that serious legislators from both parties refuse to be distracted by sideshows and carnival barkers.

Fawn Johnson captured the dynamic in a National Journal article titled, “Republican Immigration Critic Gets Slapped Down,” writing:

“The most potent illustration that Republicans have shifted their attitudes on immigration came Tuesday morning when all GOP members of the Senate Judiciary Committee rejected an amendment from Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., to severely limit the number of legal immigrants allowed into the country.  The committee’s overwhelming ‘No’ vote shows that the battle for Republicans’ souls on immigration has shifted away from groups that want to reduce the influx of foreigners, like the Heritage Foundation, NumbersUSA, and Fairness for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), toward free-market groups that applaud increased immigration, such as Americans for Tax Reform and the CATO Institute.”

Similarly, Jordan Fabian of ABC News/Univision writes of Sessions, writes:

“Immigration reform still faces a tough road to passage. But for the time being, the man who’s leading the charge against it has been pushed to the margins of the debate.”

In addition to the Senate proceedings, a rogue’s gallery of anti-immigrant House Republican held a Hill press conference yesterday to rail against immigration reform.  The six man press conference included Rep. Steve King (R-IA), the notorious xenophobe who has compared immigrants to dogs and cattle, and once called immigration a “slow motion Holocaust.”  Also in attendances was Rep. Louie “Terror Babies” Gohmert.  They were joined by Rep. Mo Brooks, who said at a 2011 constituent town hall in reference to undocumented immigrants that he thinks it’s right to “do anything short of shooting them.” Brooks also has showed his tenuous grasp of history by stating that President Ronald Reagan would “insist” on deporting undocumented immigrants (despite Reagan signing the 1986 immigration reform bill into law and his avowedly pro-immigrant beliefs, captured by his valedictory address to the nation).  The group repeatedly cited the discredited and toxic Heritage Foundation report.   Like the Senate markup, the House press conference underscored the fact that these opponents are rapidly losing influence.  As Kate Nocera of BuzzFeed noted in an article, “Small Turnout for ‘Anti-Amnesty’ Leaders in Congress,” the event was “striking as much for its small numbers as for the intensity of its views.”

Meanwhile, despite a rough few weeks, the anti-immigrant movement is still trying to stay in the conversation.  For example, the anti-immigrant organization ProEnglish is now running ads against the immigration reform bill in South Carolina.  ProEnglish is part of the network founded by John Tanton, which includes groups such as FAIR, Center for Immigration Studies and Numbers USA.  ProEnglish is now led by Robert Vandervoot, who has controversial ties to a white nationalist group.  As the subtitle in Buzzfeed’s coverage of the ads says, “Group tied to white nationalism enters immigration fray. Not what reform opponents needed after Heritage flap.”