Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) (Alex Wong/Getty Images)
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

The conservative American Action Forum, a major player on the pro-immigration reform side of the debate over immigration reform, has released a who’s who list of prominent economists who back immigration reform. The letter was sent to House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).

Among the prominent signatories are Douglas Holtz-Eakin, AAF president and former head of the Congressional Budget Office; R. Glenn Hubbard, former chairman, White House Council of Economic Advisers; supply-side guru Arthur B. Laffer;
Edward Lazear, former chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers; Lawrence Lindsey, former director of the National Economic Council and assistant to the president on economic policy; and George P. Schultz, former secretary of state and of Treasury.

The conservatives argue:

Immigration reform’s positive impact on population growth, labor force growth, housing, and other markets will lead to more rapid economic growth. This, in turn, translates into a positive impact on the federal budget. According to the Congressional Budget Office an additional 0.1 percent in average economic growth will, over a ten-year period, reduce the federal deficit by over $300 billion.

 

We urge you to pass a broad-based immigration reform bill that includes a U.S. visa system more attuned to economic policy objectives. We believe a reformed and efficient immigration system can promote economic growth and ease the challenge of reforming unsustainable federal health and retirement programs.

Like all these letters, pro and con, it is unlikely to change minds, but it does provide some cover for conservatives nervous about a right-wing backlash if they vote for the bill. Having a conservative phalanx gives Republicans added protection from the anti-reform groups arguing that reform is a betrayal of American workers.

Meanwhile, Rubio continues his 24/7 campaign for immigration reform, stressing that the status quo is unacceptable and also promising further toughening of the bill. On Fox News, he told Neil Cavuto:

My argument continues to be if we don’t pass anything, we have amnesty. We have 11.5 million people potentially living in the United States illegally, and they’re going to be here whether we pass this bill or not. Quite frankly there aren’t any consequences to that, there won’t be any consequences to that under this president. And every year that goes by, the more entrenched they get into the American economy, but they’re not paying taxes, they’re not being held accountable for the work they’re doing, etc. So we don’t know who they are – these are the sorts of reasons why we have to pass immigration reform. If you leave the status quo in place, that is amnesty.

His office continues to pepper the media with the list of amendments adopted in the Judiciary Committee, including those from GOP Sens. Mike Lee (Utah), Charles E.  Grassley (Iowa) and Jeff Flake (Ariz.), that address concerns about border security, e-verify and visa tracking. Interestingly, Grassley voted no in committee on the bill but says that if “it had been between his vote and moving the bill to the Senate floor, he would have voted in favor.” Perhaps he will be a yes vote when it matters.

The House is a different matter, as anti-immigration stalwart and House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) blasted the Senate bill. (“While I commend the Senate for their continuing efforts to tackle the extremely difficult task of reforming our broken system, I must observe that S. 744 repeats many of the mistakes of the past. We have serious concerns.”) The solution seems clear: Let them write the border security provisions, pass it through the House and move on to a conference committee.

Democrats have shown themselves to be remarkably flexible on many items, so it is very possible the bill will heighten border security even further. The border provisions, certainly, are a red herring for anti-immigration reform advocates like Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.), who recently fessed up that he opposes a path to citizenship. (If we do secure the border does he plan on deporting those here? Is there any border provision that would be better than the current system of lawlessness and an unsecured border, and, if so, how is that politically attainable without a pathway to citizenship?)

The Gang of Eight won’t win over those members who don’t want a bill at all, either because they are wary of giving the president any accomplishment or because they are wary of a more diverse electorate or because they simply cower in the face of exclusionist groups. But then you don’t need everyone to pass a bill, and with bipartisan leadership support and continued salesmanship from Rubio, this might actually win the day. And no one will be able to accuse Rubio of not trying.

Jennifer Rubin writes the Right Turn blog for The Post, offering reported opinion from a conservative perspective.