During the current congressional recess, members of the bi-partisan Senate “Gang of Eight” are closer to finalizing language of legislation to implement comprehensive immigration reform. The legislation is expected to be released sometime within the next two weeks. Accordingly, members of Congress and the organized anti-immigrant movement are ramping up efforts to stop, or at least delay, reform before the legislation is even introduced.
At the forefront of these opposition efforts is Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL). Along with five other Republican colleagues, Sen. Sessions wrote to Senate Judiciary Chairman Pat Leahy (D-VT) asking calling for more hearings on the subject of immigration before the introduced legislation undergoes the amendment process. “Gang of Eight” member, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), echoed these sentiments to slow down the legislative process. Chris Crane, National ICE Council President, also endorsed the Senators’ efforts in a recent statement.
Sen. Leahy responded to Rubio’s letter stating he would consider scheduling additional hearings on immigration once legislation is introduced. The chairman also acknowledged the “opportunity we now have to fix our immigration system.”
“Those who have been committed to this effort for decades are counting on us and expect the Senate to act thoughtfully and without further delay,” the Senator wrote, “I have little doubt we are capable of doing both and that our committee process will be, as is my practice, a full and open public debate of the legislation.”
In response to Sen. Leahy’s letter, Sessions went further, stating, “A sound committee process will take months—not the two-week timeframe Chairman Leahy has outlined.” The actions of Sen. Sessions to stall immigration reform efforts should come as no surprise given his history of anti-immigrant opinions and proclivity for obstruction.
Sessions efforts to combat reform legislation in 2007 have earned him the reputation of being one of the strongest anti-immigrant voices in the Senate. This did not go unnoticed by Sessions’ admirers in the anti-immigrant movement.
In 2008, Roy Beck, founder and president of the vociferously anti-immigrant group NumbersUSA, honored the Alabama Senator with the “Defender of the Rule of Law Award.” NumbersUSA and fellow John Tanton Network group Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) frequently celebrate and advertise Sessions’ efforts to derail reform.
Sen. Sessions and his anti-immigrant allies in Congress will be in good company in a few weeks. FAIR will be bringing nearly 50 radio talk show hosts to Washington D.C. to advance its anti-immigrant agenda April 17 and 18. The occasion? FAIR’s annual Hold Their Feet to the Fire event.
These tactics from anti-immigrant politicians and groups come at a time when support for reform is seemingly higher than ever. Pew Research polls indicate a solid majority of Americans support reform measures. Calls for reform are coming from both sides of the Congressional aisle. The Republican National committee recommended support for comprehensive immigration reform in its March report, Growth and Opportunity Project. March also saw 2016 Republican Presidential-hopeful Rand Paul declare his support during a speech at the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. “Immigration Reform will not occur until Conservative Republicans, like myself, become part of the solution. I am here today to begin that conversation,” the Senator from Kentucky said.
The conversation has started and anti-immigrant sentiment is dwindling. The nativist agenda of groups like FAIR, NumbersUSA, and their Congressional allies is being pushed increasingly towards the fringe. Every day we are coming closer to seeing reform legislation’s introduction. Predictably, the anti-immigrant movement is making a lot of noise at the moment. Fortunately, it’s being progressively discredited and drowned out.