Republicans risking conservative backlash over immigration

NEW YORK — The push toward immigration votes in the House is intensifying the divide among Republicans on one of the party’s most animating issues and fueling concerns that a voter backlash could cost the GOP control of the House in November.

To many conservatives, the compromise immigration proposal released this past week by House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wisconsin, is little more than “amnesty.”

One tea party group described the Republican plan as “the final betrayal.” Fox Business host Lou Dobbs, who is close to President Donald Trump, tweeted Friday that Ryan is “trying to open our borders even more and give illegal immigrants the biggest amnesty in American history.”

The tension threatens to exacerbate the GOP’s political challenges this fall, when their majorities in the House and Senate could be at risk.

Passage of the bill could alienate conservatives and depress turnout at a time when enthusiasm among Democrats is high. Yet, scuttling the bill could turn off independent voters, an especially important bloc for House Republicans competing in dozens of districts that Democrat Hillary Clinton won in the 2016 presidential election.

“The GOP’s in a tough spot,” Republican pollster Frank Luntz said. “The hardcore Trump voter has a different point of view than the ever-important independent voter, and there doesn’t seem to be a middle ground.”

The draft legislation, resulting from intense negotiations between moderates and conservatives, includes a path to citizenship for an estimated 1.8 million young immigrants in the country illegally. The plan includes $25 billion for a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border and other security measures sought by the White House.

“While the bill contains some positive provisions, including full funding for the border wall and closing loopholes in current law that sustain illegal border surges, it is still a mass amnesty,” said R.J. Hauman of the conservative Federation for American Immigration Reform.

“This bill hardly fulfills President Trump’s bold promise to fix immigration, and sure isn’t a winning message for the GOP in the midterms,” Hauman said.

Republicans had trumpeted Trump’s support for the plan, yet he told reporters early Friday he would not sign it if it reached his desk. Later in the day, the White House said he was confused by a reporter’s…

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