Anti-Immigration Pledge Dividing GOP

Friday, 02 May 2014 10:12 AM

By Melissa Clyne

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Conservatives are pressuring Republicans to sign a pledge stating their opposition to key components of President Barack Obama’s immigration reform agenda, The Hill reported.

The pledge – sponsored by the Federation for American Immigration Reform Congressional Task Force – is already affecting primaries across the country, due in part to conservative syndicated radio talk show host Laura Ingraham. She is keeping track of candidates and members of Congress who sign the pledge.

"If you don’t sign this pledge, then you’re not someone who believes in true border enforcement and you’re someone, apparently, who trusts the Obama administration to implement immigration reform," she said, according to The Hill.

The immigration pledge is modeled on anti-tax activist Grover Norquist’s Taxpayer Protection Pledge.

The immigration pledge requires those who sign it to oppose amnesty for the estimated 11 million illegal immigrants living in United States. Specifically, "it binds them to oppose legislation that would increase the number of legal immigrants allowed in the country and reject proposals to increase the number of guest workers," according to The Hill.

It’s already causing waves in Mississippi’s contentious primary, where Ingraham has endorsed state Sen. Chris McDaniel, backed by the tea party, is in his bid against incumbent Sen. Thad Cochran. McDaniel has signed the pledge. Cochran has not.

Introducing McDaniel on her radio show this week, Ingraham characterized him as "pro-American jobs, American economic renewal, really solid on the issue of immigration and American sovereignty," Breitbart reported.

McDaniel spoke out against the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, who has come out in favor of amnesty and financially backed Cochran.

"For [the chamber] to be attacking me in Mississippi it just goes to show how far off the conservative base they’ve moved," he said.

McDaniel said "it’s time to focus on the American worker for a change."

In New York, Assemblywoman Claudia Tenney, also aligned with the tea party, has signed the pledge. She’s challenging Rep. Richard Hanna in the state’s 22nd congressional district. In Alabama, three Republicans challenging retiring GOP Rep. Spencer Bachus for the 6th district seat have also signed.

Bachus challenger Will Brooke, an Alabama businessman, caved to pressure from Ingraham, who called him out on the air for his refusal to sign, according to The Hill. After Ingraham’s show, Brooke’s staff called in to say he had changed his mind.

In North Carolina, Rep. Renee Ellmers’ challenger, Frank Roche, has signed the pledge as has David Brat, who is running against House Majority Leader Eric Cantor. Neither Ellmers not Cantor has signed it.

Immigration reform has drawn a deep divide within the Republican Party. The more conservative arm strongly opposes it, while more moderate Republicans looking to expand the base would like to see comprehensive reform.

Florida Rep. Jose Diaz-Balart, an outspoken proponent of immigration reform, told Time magazine that if action isn’t taken this year, "Obama will take it upon himself through forms of executive action."

"I think if we don’t fix the situation, I think the president will probably act unilaterally," he said. "And when that happens, there is no room for negotiations."

Earlier this year, House Republicans announced their version of immigration reform, which calls for a pathway to legal status, but not citizenship, The Associated Press reported. Those in the U.S. illegally would be required to pay back taxes and fines. The proposal would also tighten border security.

Time reported that Republican House Speaker John Boehner appears to be backing down from his earlier push for immigration reform to happen this year, while Sen. Chuck Schumer, a New York Democrat, chided the GOP for allowing extremists to hijack the party.

"The reason the House has done nothing on immigration is because House Republicans have handed the gavel of leadership on immigration to far-right extremists like Congressman Steve King [R-Iowa]," Schumer said during a "fiery floor speech, making reference to one of the chief opponents of the Senate immigration bill," The Hill reported.

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