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“Keeping America American”: The Koch Brothers Have An Immigration Problem

Every year, Americans for Prosperity (AFP), the political group backed by the billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch, gathers thousands of conservative activists to share strategies for building a popular movement to advance their small-government, low-tax philosophy. This year’s Defending the American Dream Summit, held in Columbus, Ohio, on Aug. 21-22, attracted about 3,600 people to compare notes for weakening labor unions and stopping Medicaid expansion. Yet everyone on the floor seemed to be talking about the one topic left off the agenda: immigration.

That may be a problem for the Kochs and their network of like-minded donors, who’ve invested heavily in broadening their appeal beyond the traditional conservative base of older, white voters—and, specifically, in appealing to minorities, immigrants, and young people. In Columbus, activists got training on how to reach Snapchat-happy millennials and knock on doors in black neighborhoods to spread the gospel of the free market. They heard a former farm laborer, the son of Mexican immigrants, describe a Koch-backed program in Las Vegas that helped Latinos pass their driver’s tests and get licenses. The crowd dutifully took notes and applauded politely.

When it was time to file into the bleachers to see presidential candidates speak, talk of outreach faded away. The crowd went wild for Texas Senator Ted Cruz, whose plan for guarding the Mexican frontier includes 90,000 repurposed IRS employees, and for Bobby Jindal, the Louisiana governor, who promised to build a wall on the nation’s southern border within six months. “Immigration without assimilation is invasion!” proclaimed Jindal, the son of Indian immigrants.

The message struck a chord with summit-goers as they filed into a nearby bar for an AFP-sponsored “Buckeye bash.” “Send ’em back,” said David Dandrea, an 82-year-old former school custodian from Altoona, Pa., referring to undocumented immigrants. “A lot of them are coming over and getting on welfare. They overload the hospitals. A woman who’s eight months pregnant comes over the border to have her kid.” Fellow conservatives in bright red and highlighter-yellow AFP T-shirts wandered past. John Mellencamp’s “Hurts So Good” blared from the speakers.

Donald Trump, who’s dominated media coverage of the presidential race and made a crackdown on “the illegals” the centerpiece of his campaign, was never far from people’s minds in Columbus. Praise for Trump, who wasn’t invited to speak, was virtually unanimous, even from those who said they were backing other candidates. “He’s like the last little bit of salt you put in the stew to bring out the flavor,” said Rita Singer, a retired fabric store saleswoman from Moncks Corner, S.C. “He says what everyone else is thinking.”

Tim Phillips, the president of AFP, cautioned against reading too much into the Trump buzz. “It’s partly impacted by the breathless 24/7 coverage,” he says across the street from the Greater Columbus Convention Center, where the event was held. “If the summit were in two more months, and it’s 24/7 coverage of the Iran nuclear deal, you would find people bringing that up more.” Phillips pointed out that the activists the Koch network cultivates care about all kinds of issues, from abortion to gun control, but AFP, he said, remains solely focused on shrinking government and taxes. “We still have good friends who care passionately about these issues,” he says. “It shows a healthy, vibrant movement to have those discussions.”

The Kochs’ wealth comes from Koch Industries, the Wichita industrial behemoth they run. Their net worth is estimated at about $49 billion each. They’ve bankrolled libertarian causes for decades, although in recent years they’ve forged bonds with nontraditional allies. They gave $25 million to the United Negro College Fund and are working with the Obama administration to reduce the ranks of nonviolent drug offenders in the nation’s prisons. Yet they’ve also come to rival the Republican Party as an organizing body of the American right, securing pledges from other wealthy donors to spend as much as $889 million this year and next pushing their agenda.

Their strategy for recruiting Latinos hinges on Daniel Garza, a son of migrant fruit pickers who runs the Libre Initiative, funded by Koch-affiliated groups including the nonprofit Freedom Partners. Seated before more than 500 AFP members in Columbus, he described going door-to-door in Latino neighborhoods to make the case against Obamacare. When someone asked if Trump is threatening conservatives’ chances with Latinos, Garza said conservatives need to be respectful and appreciate the crucial role that immigrants play in the U.S. economy. He called Trump’s proposal to deny citizenship to the children of undocumented immigrants “not realistic.”

Dorothy Osborne, a stay-at-home mom from Tennessee, disagreed. “Yes it is!” she called out as Garza spoke. In the hallway outside, Osborne said she agrees with much of Garza’s message. “We have to go and talk to these people,” she said. “We want them to love freedom.” But she said she doesn’t think an immigration crackdown would alienate Latinos who live here legally. “It’s economics, it’s crime, it’s the drain on our resources. And it’s keeping America American,” she said. “If our country becomes more like Venezuela, that’s not helping anyone.”

 

By: Zachary Mider, Bloomberg Politics, August 27, 2015

August 31, 2015 Posted by | Donald Trump, Immigration, Koch Brothers | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Papers Please”: Remember What Happened The Last Time A Republican President Had A ‘Round Up Of Illegal’ Immigrants?

Ed Kilgore is right to be…um…”skeptical” that Peggy Noonan has tapped into some great Latino love for Donald Trump. She found one Dominican who is angry at illegal immigrants. Noonan bought his story because that’s what she wants to believe.

But I’ll give you one good reason why most brown people (Latino as well as other nationalities) in this country are terrified of what Donald Trump is saying he would do. It’s because some of them (and a few of us) remember what happened the last time a Republican president decided to round up a bunch of illegal immigrants and ship them home. We remember because it wasn’t that long ago.

Here’s what happened when ICE raided Howard Industries in Laurel, MS in 2008.

ICE´s approach humiliated all Latino workers in the plant with their Racial Profiling. Witnesses said ICE provided all White and Black workers Blue Armbands. All the Latino workers were put in line and forced to prove their legal status. ICE, in their uniforms and wearing side arms, caused ALL Latino workers to shiver in fear as they went through this ritual. The exits were sealed. Some Latino workers were sprayed with Mace.

Here’s how an ACLU press release (link no longer available) described what happened.

“We are deeply concerned by reports that workers at the factory where the raid occurred were segregated by race or ethnicity and interrogated, the factory was locked down for several hours, workers were denied access to counsel, and ICE failed to inform family members and lawyers following the raid where the workers were being jailed,” said Monica Ramirez, a staff attorney with the ACLU Immigrants’ Rights Project who has traveled to Mississippi to meet with family members and lawyers about the government’s actions.

So you see, brown people know that if Trump’s plan to “deport ’em all” was ever implemented, they’re all likely to be subjected to “papers please” interrogations – regardless of their legal status. It hasn’t been that long since that is exactly what happened in this country.

 

By: Nancy LeTourneau, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, August 29, 2015

August 30, 2015 Posted by | Donald Trump, Immigrants, Immigration | , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Who We Are As A Nation”: 11 Million People, But Just Three Choices

Whether or not it can be said that Donald Trump is pushing the Republican presidential field “to the right” on immigration policy, there’s zero question he is making it much harder for them to play games with it, as Greg Sargent points out at the Plum Line after watching Scott Walker and Carly Fiorina squirm through questioning on the Sunday shows.

When the GOP candidates are pressed on what they would do about the 11 million, the results tend not to be pretty. For instance, on Meet the Press, Chuck Todd asked Carly Fiorina about Trump’s call for ending birthright citizenship -which Fiorina rejected far more forcefully than Walker did. But then Todd sensibly followed up with this:

TODD: What do you do with the 11 million?

FIORINA: My own view is, if you have come here illegally and stayed here illegally, you do not have an opportunity to earn a pathway to citizenship. To legal status, perhaps. But I think there must be consequence.

Fiorina says that “perhaps” undocumented immigrants should have a path to legal status — provided it precludes any chance at citizenship. Okay, if you’re not willing to support legal status, then what should be done instead? Walker, for his part, has declined to endorse mass deportations, but doesn’t think we should even talk about legalization until the border is secured.

There are really just three legitimate answers to Todd’s question: deportation, self-deportation, or legalization (though it’s possible to have a combination of the three). “I don’t want to talk about it until the border is secured” is a non-answer. Arguments over the remote possibility of repealing “birthright citizenship” are non-responsive, too. And if deportation–which presumably is what “just enforcing the law” would involve–is in the cards, we need frank talk about how to defray the incredibly high costs and whether the police state atmosphere it would involve could have some collateral effects on little matters like who we are as a nation.

Until Trump started talking about deportation, there was a tacit agreement within the GOP to keep it all vague so as to satisfy the people who really would like to see children herded onto cattle cars and sent to the border without alarming everyone else–you know, kind of like the tacit agreement not to discuss Carly Fiorina’s qualifications to be president, which Trump also broke. But journalists really need to stop letting these birds avoid the key questions or have it every which way or change the subject.

 

By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, August 24, 2015

August 25, 2015 Posted by | Donald Trump, GOP Presidential Candidates, Immigration | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“Allowing Ideology To Overcome Common Sense”: Conservative Policies Just Don’t Work: Immigration Edition

I’ve frequently used the devastating failure of Sam Brownback’s conservative economic experiment in Kansas to show that conservative policies aren’t just morally and ethically wrong, but also simply dysfunctional and counterproductive at a basic utilitarian level. Most educated people understand this about supply-side economic policy by now.

It’s also, of course, true of social policy. We know that sexual repression, abstinence education and social stigma is the surest way to increase unintended pregnancy, STD transmission and infidelity. We know that you can’t actually “pray the gay away” even if you wanted to.

And it’s true of immigration policy, that very hot topic at present. Dave Weigel at the Washington Post reminds us of the utter failure of Trump-style immigration policy, in the very state where Trump decided to host his stadium rally:

Alabama, which hosted the largest rally of Trump’s presidential campaign Friday night, had been a test kitchen for Trump-style crackdowns on undocumented workers — and it had not gone well.

In 2011, a new Republican legislature and governor enacted HB 56, the Alabama Taxpayer and Citizen Protection Act. Chief sponsor Micky Hammon warned the undocumented population that he would “make it difficult for them to live here, so they will deport themselves.” Renting a house or giving a job to an “illegal” became a crime. Police were empowered to demand proof of citizenship from anyone who looked as if he or she might lack it. School administrators were instructed to do the same to children.

The backlash was massive — a legal assault that chipped away at the law, and a political campaign that made Republicans own its consequences. Business groups blamed the tough measures for scaring away capital and for an exodus of workers that hurt the state’s agriculture industry. After Mitt Romney lost the 2012 presidential election, strategists in his own party blamed his support for the Alabama attrition policy. Those critics included Donald Trump.

It wasn’t just a political failure and black eye for the state. It was also a direct policy failure. As in other states that tried similar experiments, the agriculture sector suffered greatly as workers driven away by hostile policies were not easily replaced.

Asked about the law, Alabama voters rarely say that it worked. Large farms spent millions training new workers. The Byrds conceded that the agriculture sector suffered after some immigrants fled the state. “Most of them left and didn’t come back,” said Terry Darring-Rogers, who works at a Mobile law firm specializing in immigration.

But many Republicans have already forgotten that lesson, allowing their ideology to overwhelm their common sense in the belief that it wasn’t state conservative policy that failed, but the federal government’s interference that stymied it:

To Republicans, the lesson of HB 56 was no longer that it failed. The lesson was that it had not been permitted to work, stymied by the Obama administration. That theory took shape in the displays in some Robertsdale stores, where a sign declaring compliance with E-Verify was posted above an even larger ad from the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department.

Some people will never learn, no matter how much self-inflicted failure they endure. When Josh Duggar and countless similar self-righteous conservatives are exposed as cheating molesters, it doesn’t cause conservatives to question whether their belief system might be causing those problems. They just double down. When abstinence education causes more teen pregnancy than responsible sex education, conservatives double down on the slut shaming. When tax cuts on the rich and wage cuts to government workers lead to economic recession, Republicans don’t question their core economic beliefs; they just claim they weren’t allowed to go far enough.

In a way, modern conservatives are similar to the Communists of old. No matter how obvious the ideology’s failure, the response is always that the policies were not enacted in a strong and pure enough manner.

That inability to come to grips with failure and adjust course, and that insistence on doubling down in the face of adverse results, is part of why many consider modern conservatism to be an almost cultic movement. Its adherents long since stopped caring about the evidence or empirical results. It’s all about who can prove truest to the faith, and maximally annoy and rebel against the evil liberal heathens. Policies and results are really beside the point.

 

By: David Atkins, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, August 23, 2015

August 24, 2015 Posted by | Conservatives, Ideology, Immigration | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“An Incredibly Clear Message To Hispanic Voters”: Did Republicans Just Give Away The 2016 Election By Raising Birthright Citizenship?

It may not seem like it, but this week has seen the most significant development yet in the immigration debate’s role in the 2016 election. I’d go even farther — it’s possible that the entire presidential election just got decided.

Is that an overstatement? Maybe. But hear me out.

For months, people like me have been pointing to the fundamental challenge Republican presidential candidates face on immigration: they need to talk tough to appeal to their base in the primaries, but doing so risks alienating the Hispanic voters they’ll need in the general election. This was always going to be a difficult line to walk, but a bunch of their candidates just leaped off to one side.

After Donald Trump released his immigration plan, which includes an end to birthright citizenship — stating that if you were born in the United States but your parents were undocumented, you don’t get to be a citizen — some of his competitors jumped up to say that they agreed. NBC News asked Scott Walker the question directly, and he seemed to reply that he does favor an end to birthright citizenship, though his campaign qualified the statement later. Bobby Jindal tweeted, “We need to end birthright citizenship for illegal immigrants.” Then reporters began looking over others’ past statements to see where they stood on this issue, and found that this isn’t an uncommon position among the GOP field. Remember all the agonizing Republicans did about how they had to reach out to Hispanic voters? They never figured out how to do it, and now they’re running in the opposite direction.

Here is the list of Republican candidates who have at least suggested openness to ending birthright citizenship, which would mean repealing the 14th Amendment to the Constitution: Donald Trump, Scott Walker, Bobby Jindal, John Kasich, Rand Paul, Chris Christie, Lindsey Graham, and Rick Santorum. That’s nearly half the GOP field, and more may be added to the list.

The 14th Amendment states in part: “All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside.” It was passed after the Civil War to ensure that former slaves had all the legal rights of other citizens. You can’t end birthright citizenship without repealing it. That means that no matter who gets elected in 2016, birthright citizenship is not going to be eliminated. The bar is so high for amending the Constitution that it’s impossible to imagine any amendment this controversial getting ratified, which is as it should be.

But the political impact is going to be very real, whether or not the idea goes anywhere in practical terms. The simple fact is that if Republicans don’t improve their performance among Hispanic voters, they cannot win the White House. Period.

This discussion about birthright citizenship sends an incredibly clear message to Hispanic voters, a message of naked hostility to them and people like them. It’s possible to argue that you’re “pro-immigrant” while simultaneously saying we should build more walls and double the size of the Border Patrol. Indeed, many Republicans do, and while their argument may not be particularly persuasive, it’s not completely crazy. But you can’t say you’re pro-immigrant and advocate ending birthright citizenship. You just can’t.

I promise you that next fall, there are going to be ads like this running all over the country, and especially on Spanish-language media:

“My name is Lisa Hernandez. I was born in California, grew up there. I was valedictorian of my high school class, graduated from Yale, and now I’m in medical school; I’m going to be a pediatrician. But now Scott Walker and the Republicans say that because my mom is undocumented, that I’m not a real American and I shouldn’t be a citizen. I’m living the American Dream, but they want to take it away from me and people like me. Well I’ve got a message for you, Governor Walker. I’m every bit as American as your children. This country isn’t about who your parents were, it’s about everybody having a chance to work hard, achieve, and contribute to our future. It seems like some people forgot that.”

When a hundred ads like that one are blanketing the airwaves, the Republicans can say, “Wait, I support legal immigration!” all they want, but it won’t matter. Hispanic voters will have heard once again — and louder than ever before — that the GOP doesn’t like them and doesn’t want them. Will it be different if they nominate one of the candidates who doesn’t want to repeal birthright citizenship, like Jeb Bush or Marco Rubio? Somewhat, but the damage among Hispanic voters could already be too great even for them to overcome.

Now let’s look at the magnitude of the challenge the Republicans face. A number of analysts have all come to the same conclusion: given that Hispanics are rapidly increasing their share of the population and whites’ share is declining, Republicans need to improve their performance among Hispanics to prevail.

And they may have to improve dramatically. For instance, in this analysis by Latino Decisions, under even the most absurdly optimistic scenario for Republicans — “that white voters consolidate behind the Republican Party at levels that were observed in 2014; that black participation and Democratic support returns to pre-Obama levels; and the expected growth in the Latino vote does not fully materialize” — the Republican candidate would need 42 percent of the Hispanic vote to win. As a point of comparison, according to exit polls Mitt Romney got 27 percent of Hispanic votes in 2012, while John McCain got 31 percent in 2008. Under a more likely scenario, with an electorate that votes something like in 2012 but with African-American turnout reduced, the Republican would need 47 percent of the Hispanic vote. In their worst-case scenario for Republicans — an electorate that votes identically to the way it did in 2012, but adjusted for changes in population — the Republican would need a stunning 52 percent of Hispanic votes.

So to sum up: even in the best possible situation when it comes to turnout and the vote choices of the rest of the electorate, the Republican presidential candidate in 2016 is going to have to pull off an absolutely heroic performance among Hispanic voters if he’s going to win.

That seemed awfully unlikely a week ago. How likely does it seem today?

 

By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer, The American Prospect; Contributor, The Plum Line Blog, The Washington Post, August 18, 2015

August 20, 2015 Posted by | Birthright Citizenship, GOP Presidential Candidates, Immigration | , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

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