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11/20: Anti-Immigration Forces Ready to Challenge Obama
Released 23 November 2008  By Tom Barry - Americas Policy Program, Center for International Policy

Anti-Immigration Forces Ready to Challenge Obama

Tom Barry
Americas Policy Program, Center for International Policy (CIP)

November 20, 2008

Editor's note: This is the third article in a three-part series on the post-election debate on immigration reform. The first part is Both Sides of Immigration Debate Retrench, the second is Identity Politics and the Latino Payback on Immigration.

While pro-immigration groups are hailing the Obama victory and the Latino turnout as a victory for liberal immigration reform, immigration restrictionists are reshaping their messaging for the Obama era. Although not thrilled with the prospect of an Obama presidency, the restrictionists don't necessarily fear it. Some, including NumbersUSA and the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), already are trying to leverage Obama's promises to protect workers and create jobs.

Given how successfully the restrictionist institutes in Washington have tweaked their anti-immigration message in the Bush era to reflect new citizen concerns about national security and the "rule of law," it would behoove immigrant advocates and other supporters of comprehensive immigration reform to pay more attention to what the leading restrictionists are now saying.

During the campaign the anti-immigration groups despaired over the prospect of either McCain or Obama. But now the two leading restrictionist policy institutes, NumbersUSA and the Federation for American Immigration Reform, point encouragingly to Obama's strong positions in favor of employee verification and employer enforcement.

They have also been confident that the aggressive enforcement regime instituted by Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff will persist into the next administration, especially given the way that many Democratic congressional representatives have supported increases in the department's immigration-enforcement and border-control budget.

However, it's the country's economic downspin that gives the restrictionists the most confidence that liberal immigration reform is dead for the foreseeable future.
FAIR's Post-Election Framing

FAIR immediately jumped into the post-election debate over immigration reform with media releases, polls, and new policy analysis about the prospects for comprehensive immigration reform.

Rather than focusing on how pro-immigration and anti-immigration candidates did on Nov. 4, FAIR almost immediately developed a new framing for its anti-immigration message. According to FAIR, "The results of yesterday's elections are a clear rejection by the voters of government of, by, and for, special interests, and policies that have brought this nation to the brink of an economic crisis."

While pro-immigration groups like the National Immigration Forum and America's Voice were citing the heavy Latino and immigrant turnout for the Democrats as evidence that the time has come for liberal immigration reform, FAIR posited that Americans were mostly concerned about their jobs and economic stability and, as such, would not support "failed special interest-driven policies" like immigration.

FAIR asserted that "Americans are fed-up with immigration policies that have placed the interests of immigration lawbreakers, cheap labor employers, and ethnic power brokers ahead of those of struggling workers and taxpayers."

Casting aside Obama's promise to enact comprehensive reform including legalization in his first term, FAIR's president Dan Stein zeroed in on Obama's commitments to create jobs and to back "change that voters can believe in." Instead of focusing on the cultural, national security, environmental, or "rule of law" arguments that FAIR has previously favored, Stein argued that FAIR's position in favor of restricted immigration was an economic, worker-centered stance.

"To the extent that Senator Obama received a mandate," said Stein, "it is to put government back on the side of working Americans. A critical component of an economic recovery plan for struggling workers must be to set rational limits on immigration, enforce laws against employing illegal aliens, and resist calls for more guest workers."

Rather than situate FAIR as a negative force opposing comprehensive immigration reform, Stein called for Obama to "put forward a coherent immigration policy that recognizes that reforming immigration is critical to getting our economy back on track." Typical of the restrictionists that see legal and illegal immigration as a causal factor for most any problem from climate change to the subprime crisis—FAIR now regards restrictionism as central to economic recovery.

"At a time when the economy is faltering, when nearly a million Americans have lost their jobs this year alone, when federal, state, and local governments are facing unprecedented deficits, President Obama will need to institute and enforce immigration policies that do not add to these problems."

Like the pro-immigration forces, the anti-immigration camp brandishes polls to back its statements. In making its new pitch for a conservative reform package that would restrict both legal and illegal immigration, FAIR points to exit polls and a post-election poll it commissioned to support its contention that liberal immigration reform can't count on widespread public support....

See complete article at:

**For More Information:

Identity Politics and the Latino Payback on Immigration

Both Sides of Immigration Debate Retrench

Emanuel's Political Pragmatism on Immigration Reform

Chertoff's Challenge to Obama

Democrats to Immigrants: "Get Right with the Law"

All immigration material:
Reframing the Immigration Debate: The Actors and the Issues

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