The hard work of writing a bipartisan immigration bill is done as the Senate “Gang of 8” is expected to debut their legislation on Tuesday. Now comes the next part: jockeying for credit if it passes and deflecting blame if it fails.
Enter American Bridge, a prominent Democratic super PAC devoted to tracking Republican candidates and gathering opposition research.
The group is out with a dossier Monday entitled “Barriers to Reform: The anti-immigrant and extremist money blocking progress in the Senate.” The report singles out a handful of Republican senators for what it describes as “disturbing” anti-immigration rhetoric and notes donations they’ve received from individuals and foundations who have also funded border hawk groups like FAIR and NumbersUSA, among others.
So who’s on the list of these supposed “barriers to reform” with “troubling histories on the issue?” Every Republican who wrote the immigration bill.Yep, the entire GOP half of the “Gang of 8” makes a prominent appearance in American Bridge’s oppo file, including Sens. Marco Rubio (R-FL), John McCain (R-AZ), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), and Jeff Flake (R-AZ). Meanwhile the most prominent anti-immigration Republican in the Senate, Jeff Sessions (R-AL), barely gets a mention.
The report, which comes as Republican members of the “Gang of 8” are garnering praise from their Democratic colleagues for shepherding legislation to this point, offers a preview of where the politics of immigration might be heading: Democrats aren’t going to let Republicans brand themselves as the party of immigration — and Latino voters — just because they finally changed their mind about blocking reform.
For Rubio, the first name on the list, American Bridge gathered some of his old quotes criticizing past immigration efforts, before he tacked to the center in January and endorsed an eventual path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants.
“The problem is that all of the existing policy proposals that are out there like the DREAM Act create amnesty,” Rubio said in a March 2012 interview highlighted by Bridge. “They create incentives for illegal immigration, chain migration, and all sorts of problems. What I have said is that I believe we can deal with these kids and these circumstances without making all of the DREAM Act’s mistakes.”
The report also notes that Rubio once said he would have voted for a version of Arizona’s SB 1070 law, which authorized police to crack down on illegal immigration and sparked a national backlash from Latino groups.
For McCain, there are some choice moments from his “complete the danged fence” days, like when he called SB 1070 “a very important step forward” for his home state in 2010.
And for Graham, the report highlights his criticisms of birthright citizenship.
“People come here to have babies,” he said in a Fox News interview, also in 2010. “They come here to drop a child. It’s called ‘drop and leave.'”
There are some other names in the report: Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), who opposed the 2007 immigration bill; newcomer Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), who opposed both the DREAM Act and in-state tuition for undocumented students; and Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX), who opposed the DREAM Act and past comprehensive reform bills. It also highlights Sen. David Vitter’s (R-LA) use of illegal immigration in attack ads and his recent comments calling Rubio “amazingly naive” for his work on the latest reform push. But make no mistake: the “Gang of 8” are the real draw.