Ag Policy Blog

Immigration Continues to Divide GOP

Chris Clayton
By  Chris Clayton , DTN Ag Policy Editor
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House Speaker John Boehner made news Thursday by speaking to a rotary club in his home state of Ohio. Boehner mocked fellow House Republicans for failing to take a vote on immigration reform.

"Here's the attitude. Ohhhh. Don't make me do this. Ohhhh. This is too hard," Boehner whined, as describe in the Cincinnati Enquirer. "We get elected to make choices. We get elected to solve problems and it's remarkable to me how many of my colleagues just don't want to ... They'll take the path of least resistance."

Boehner added, "I've had every brick and bat and arrow shot at me over this issue just because I wanted to deal with it. I didn't say it was going to be easy."…

Boehner could get a vote on some type of immigration measure, but it's unclear what such a bill would be. Every bill offered attempting to allow any group of undocumented immigrants to gain legal status usually draws a wrath of inner-party criticism. Lawmakers have offered bills to allow children to stay in the country legally or allow them to join the military and get permanent status. Both proposals divide the GOP caucus.

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Agricultural groups have banded together to push for immigration reform that would legalize the one million or so people working on farms that are in the country illegally. The farm lobby also wants a broader guest-worker program that would allow employers to bring in more workers and allow those workers to stay in the U.S. for longer periods of time. While lobbying for legislation, the agricultural groups pushing for immigration reform know better than to get involved in primary battles.

Primaries across the country show at least some Republicans are determined to use any softened stance on immigration against their fellow party members, regardless of whether the race is for a state or federal office. In Nebraska's six-way GOP gubernatorial, state Sen. Beau McCoy is trailing frontrunners, but has centered his ad and political strategy round hammering businessman Pete Ricketts over an "amnesty" position Ricketts had when running for the U.S. Senate eight years ago. McCoy has run ads, created a website and confronted Ricketts about his position in a debate on Wednesday.

In Iowa's GOP primary for U.S. Senate, the candidates said Thursday night they support tougher border measures but no amnesty. Meanwhile, an pro-immigration reform group headed by Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg is running ads against Rep. Steve King in Iowa. King, one of the GOP's most ardent opponents of immigration reform, had criticized a bill by fellow Republican Jeff Denham of California that would allow illegal immigrations who have lived in the U.S. since they were children to join the military and receive permanent residency. Zuckerberg's ads show Latinos in the military criticizing King's stance. King shot back earlier this week: "I am under attack by billionaire Mark Zuckerberg because I am one of the few who will stand up and tell the truth about amnesty,” he said in a statement. “He wants amnesty because it would benefit his multi-billion dollar corporation, but I’m fighting to preserve the Rule of Law. Why would we reward people for breaking our laws? Rewarding law breakers produces more law breakers.”…

In Texas, GOP gubernatorial nominee Greg Abbott is reaching out to Latino voters. Dan Patrick, the Republican nominee for lieutenant governor, has clashed over immigration policy with Latino leaders such as San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro. Patrick wants to focus more on border control while eliminating programs such as allowing in-state tuition for undocumented students.…

In Kentucky, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell's campaign touts his vote against the comprehensive immigration reform bill last year, especially after McConnell's primary opponent, Matt Bevin, praised the work ethnic of illegal immigrants and said the country needs "healthy immigration." McConnell's team slammed Bevin's comments, saying “Bevin says that illegal immigrants are better workers than law-abiding Americans, who he implies are lazy.” Bevin's spokeswoman had to counter by declaring that McConnell didn't do enough to block last June's Senate vote.…

In Colorado, Rep. Cory Gardner, a Republican, has attacked incumbent Sen. Mark Udall, a Democrat, calling the Senate bill "amnesty for illegal immigrants."

Politico reported Thursday that Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, sent Boehner a letter calling on him to push for an immigration reform bill that includes a path to citizenship, coupled with tighter border-security measures.…

Yet, 22 Republican senators also sent President Barack Obama a letter on Thursday to "express our grave concerns" about the administration's policy of not sending people back across the border who are not convicted of other crimes. The senators argue the administration is further weakening immigration enforcement across the country.…

Follow me on Twitter @ChrisClaytonDTN

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