Four significant developments in the immigration reform debate should alert immigration exclusionists that they are on thin ice.
First, a Wall Street Journal-NBC poll shows that 64 percent of American favor a pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants while 31 percent do not. Among Republicans support drops to 47 percent, but — and this is key — when asked if they’d support a pathway to citizenship that also includes a fine, any back taxes, passing a security background check and other required steps, that support jumps to more than 70 percent. The poll didn’t ask, but I bet if you threw in “border security” you’d get 80 percent of Republicans. This polling confirms precisely the point we’ve argued here many times: support for immigration reform even within the GOP is much higher than very loud exclusionists would have politicians believe.
Send a large and wealthy group of Silicon Valley execs have banded together in a group Fwd.us to support immigration reform and, frankly, to give cover to vote for comprehensive reform. A who’s who in the tech world (Aditya Agarwal, Jim Breyer, Matt Cohler, Ron Conway, John Doerr, Joe Green, Reid Hoffman, Drew Houston, Chamath Palihapitiya, Ruchi Sanghvi and Mark Zuckerberg) founded the effort. Interestingly, Rob Jesmer (former Executive Director of the National Republican Senatorial Committee), based in Washington D.C., is the organization’s campaign manager, focused on political operations. This group is prepared to run ads, raise money and, naturally, use all social media tools available to help pass a pro-immigration reform agenda as well as education reform (‘”Higher standards and accountability in schools, support for good teachers and a much greater focus on learning about science, technology, engineering and math”) and increased investment in scientific research.
Zuckerberg writes an op-ed in The Post:
To lead the world in this new economy, we need the most talented and hardest-working people. We need to train and attract the best. We need those middle-school students to be tomorrow’s leaders.
Given all this, why do we kick out the more than 40 percent of math and science graduate students who are not U.S. citizens after educating them? Why do we offer so few H-1B visas for talented specialists that the supply runs out within days of becoming available each year, even though we know each of these jobs will create two or three more American jobs in return? Why don’t we let entrepreneurs move here when they have what it takes to start companies that will create even more jobs?”
So loads of Silicon Valley money and cache are out there to partner with forward-looking conservatives on education/human capital proposals and immigration reform. A group that largely has been in the Democrats’ corner is now opening their wallets to pro-immigration Republicans.
Third, there is now — get this — a coalition in favor of immigration reform that includes Silicon Valley moguls and evangelicals. The Wall Street Journal reports:
After decades of sitting on the sidelines of the debate, evangelical Christians are prodding Republican lawmakers to support a path to U.S. citizenship for the nation’s illegal immigrants, based on their reading of Bible teachings. Evangelical pastors from pulpits across the U.S. cite Scriptures about welcoming strangers. Some compare illegal immigrants with modern-day lepers, who should be treated with compassion by Christians.
An estimated 300 evangelical leaders, including Mr. Beshore, plan to convene in Washington next week to lobby lawmakers of both parties for an immigration policy overhaul, an issue that has divided voters, lawmakers and church congregations.
Add in a coalition of fiscal conservatives, and in addition to Latino and minority voters who regard immigration reform as a gateway issue, you have a large cross section of voters the GOP would want to attract.
And finally, from press reports and tweets from Sen. Marco Rubio’s chief of staff Cesar Conda, it appears that the Republicans in the Gang of Eight did a good job of bargaining, getting commitments on guest workers, border security, employer verification and other conservative-pleasing items. We’ll find out more today.
In short, the smart thing for Republicans now is to support reasonable immigration reform. It’s popular, critical supporters favor it and, yes, it is good policy. You’d have to believe the right-wing screechers to think the smart and safe move is to throw away a once-in-a-generation opportunity for conservatives to get on the right side of the issue and get credit for doing so.