Policy: Immigration

When 'Pragmatist' Republican really means K Street Republican

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Beltway Confidential,Timothy P. Carney,Immigration,Republican Party,Tea Party,Lobbying,Analysis

The immigration fight pits the Republican Party’s elites against its rowdy grass roots. I wrote about this two weeks ago, and the Atlantic’s talented Molly Ball goes much deeper in a new article today.

I recommend the article, but I wanted to parse one of her notions: “pragmatist.”

The Republicans supporting a liberal immigration bill, are per se “pragmatists,” in Ball’s account, who are “interested in being part of the solution.”

But look closer at the pragmatists, and you see a general — though not universal — pattern.

Ball quotes “former top aide to House Speaker Dennis Hastert and House Majority Leader Tom DeLay” John Feehery as desperately supporting the bill. Isn’t it worth mentioning that Feehery is a K Street lobbyist for a handful of corporate clients including Hilton Hotels, for whom he has lobbied on immigration issues? He also has a handful of tech clients, who support liberalized immigration laws.

Immigration liberalization is pragmatic for these companies because it allows them to get labor for cheaper, and thus to make higher profits. So, their lobbyist Feehery certainly is motivated by his care for immigrants and his worries that the issue could hurt Republicans — but it seems he’s also a “pragmatist” lobbyist, who, at the very least, runs with a crowd that sees profits in increasingly the labor supply.

Charlie Spies, “who last headed the pro-Romney super PAC Restore Our Future,” as Ball explains, is a casino lobbyist. While Ball cites some straight-up libertarian supporters of the immigration — like ATR and Cato — many names Ball cites are current or recent corporate lobbyists.

I, as a Catholic and a libertarian, personally see many virtues in loosening our immigration laws. I just think the “pragmatism” of the “reformers” gets much less scrutiny than it probably deserves.

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