An item in a press release from Asamblea De Derechos Civiles Tuesday caught our eye:
Hours after meeting with Representative Michelle Bachmann (R-CD6), Minnesota Latino immigrants remain hopeful, but cautious.
While grateful for an opportunity to discuss the issue of immigration reform with Representative Bachmann, members of organization La Asamblea de Derechos Civiles were disappointed that Representative Bachmann had opened up the meeting to an out-of-state congressperson whose comments in the meeting were inappropriate. While Representative Bachmann may believe that others are experts at the topic at hand, La Asamblea members believe that Representative Bachmann should be an expert in attempting to understand the experiences of her constituents.
However, La Asamblea members do applaud Representative Bachmann for agreeing to continue listening to stories and constituent perspectives regarding immigration reform. . .
The press release went on to praise the tone of the meeting:
"The meeting had a very positive tone of building bridges between the Latino community and Mrs. Bachmann. At the meeting, we had the impression that freedom for many immigrants is closer and we made it clear to her that the Latinos have a growing voting muscle in politics that we are ready to use," said Pablo Tapia, La Asamblea organizer.
Bluestem has learned that the other member of Congress was Alabama representative Mo Brooks, who serves his state's fifth congressional district on the Tennessee border.
Update: Bluestem's original post was not clear about the logistics of the meeting, which took place in Minnesota with Bachmann and one of her Washington staff members. Brooks joined the meeting via speaker phone. [end update]
What sort of immigration expert did Bachmann ask to join her in meeting a faithbased group which organizes "immigrants from predominantly Latino congregations to build power to change the immigration system. . ."?
In his first term, one of Brooks' statements on immigration attracted national attention. Huffington Post reported in Mo Brooks: 'I Will Do Anything Short Of Shooting' Undocumented Immigrants (VIDEO):
"As your congressman on the House floor, I will do anything short of shooting them," Brooks said. "Anything that is lawful, it needs to be done because illegal aliens need to quit taking jobs from American citizens."
Rep. Charlie Gonzalez, (D-Texas) head of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, blasted Brooks remarks."Rhetoric referencing acts of violence has no place in the discussion for realistic solutions to our country's immigration problems," Gonzalez said. "Words have consequences"
Brooks 2.0: Gentler anti-immigrant rhetoric in 2013
We don't know yet what "inappropriate" comments Brooks made in the recent meeting, but he's one of a handful of congress people who have been critical of current bipartisan efforts to move comprehensive immigration reform.
His rhetoric does seem to have mellowed in the last two years.
On April 11, The Hill reported in Immigration, gun deals make Tea Party lawmakers restless:
After the media reported that an immigration deal among the Senate’s Gang of Eight was imminent, a number of conservatives in the House told their leadership on Wednesday that they didn’t want to get steamrolled by the upper chamber.
Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Ala.) told The Hill, “We probably won’t know anything until a bill is drafted and presented.
“Keep in mind, it’s just eight people. It’s not sanctioned by anybody,” he noted, adding “it’s going to be very difficult for me to agree to ratify illegal conduct.”
That same day, Roll Call reported in King, House GOP Conservatives Seek to Slow Momentum on Immigration Bills:
. . .With both groups seemingly close to producing legislation, King and the others believe it’s time for them to make their voices heard before the momentum becomes overwhelming.
“We’ve held our powder dry,” King said, but “decided its time to come forward now because we are seeing the inertia and we are concerned about having this wash over us and not have the opportunity for the constitutional conservatives in this country and in this Congress to have their voice heard.”
All made the case that border security should be the main priority rather than providing a path to legalization or citizenship.
“Why aren’t we just introducing one bill that says we need to fully secure the borders?” asked Bachmann. . . .
The Daily Caller reported in Conservative House GOP members come out swinging on immigration reform:
A group of Republican House members led by Iowa Rep. Steve King spoke forcefully in opposition to a mass legalization before first solving the problem of illegal immigration at an event with reporters Thursday. . . .
Alabama Republican Rep. Mo Brooks said that the immigration system should serve Americans and stressed that in terms of immigration, America “is the most compassionate nation in history when it comes to allowing foreigners to become citizens of our country.”
“I want to emphasize the culture that we have in America, that we welcome immigration,” he said, explaining the issue is illegal immigration.
“We have to make a choice: Are we going to have laws, or not have laws? If we are not going to have open borders then that means we have to have laws that restrict who can come and who cannot come in. And we have to enforce those laws,” Brooks said, explaining that it is only a small percentage of people “who have chosen to disregard our laws as their first act on American soil.”
He added that with so many people wishing to come to America, the country should focus on accepting the most valuable and productive people.
“I urge that we get behind an immigration policy that focuses on bringing to America those who are clearly going to be on the productive side of our economy, less likely to be on the consumptive side of our economy,” he said, adding that illegal immigrants contribute to keeping wages low and Americans out of work.
On April 15, the Atlantic Wire reported in No One's Paying Attention to Michele Bachmann on Immigration This Time:
Florida Sen. Marco Rubio went on seven Sunday talk shows to pitch a bipartisan immigration reform deal, while a handful of Republican lawmakers famous for their wacky cable news interviews can't get any attention. An anti-immigration "gang of six" in the House is trying to stop the pro-immigration "gang of eight" in the Senate, The National Review's Robert Costa reports, but hardly anyone's listening. The six are cable TV favorites: Minnesota's Michele Bachmann, Iowa's Steve King, Texas' Louie Gohmert, Alabama's Mo Brooks, Pennsylvania's Lou Barletta, and California's Dana Rohrabacher. There were zero "anti-amnesty" Sunday show guests the week before Rubio's grand tour. The most popular cable guests of the six -- Bachmann, King, and Gohmert -- haven't been invited on cable to talk immigration in the last three months, according to Lexis Nexis. They complain the GOP isn't listening to them either.
In 2007, Costa explains, Republican immigration opponents "dominated the headlines" and "scared off many Republicans who might otherwise have supported it." Now, "the anti-legalization warriors wonder why their party suddenly seems to be ignoring their concerns." But once the bill comes out, he writes, "they think they, not Rubio, will be the Republicans who shape the debate, especially on talk radio and within the conservative movement." But that hasn't happened so far! According to Lexis Nexis -- which, granted, doesn't have every single word uttered on cable news -- Bachmann, King, and Gohmert haven't been able to get much time on Fox to sell their view. They're all far more popular on MSNBC as bad guys than on Fox as good guys.
Check out the tally sheet at the Atlantic Wire. In the National Review article, A Gang of Six Plots a Revolt Costa writes:
King and his crew are not driving the negotiations, and they increasingly feel like outsiders within their own party. “The meetings of the Gang of Eight and the secret meetings in the House of Representatives — the people who have been standing up for the Constitution and the rule of law haven’t been invited to those meetings,” King tells the assembled group of reporters. The other huddlers — Michele Bachmann (Minn.), Lou Barletta (Pa.), Mo Brooks (Ala.), Louie Gohmert (Texas), and Dana Rohrabacher (Calif.) — nod and grimace. “We’ve got all the rich guys and the elitists talking to each other,” Rohrabacher says. “Unfortunately us regular folks don’t have that kind of coordination.”
Earlier, covering a Scottsboro town hall, AL.com reported in Rep. Mo Brooks repeats concern about illegal aliens, says amnesty ignores immigration laws:
Brooks has long been in opposition to allowing leniency to those who skirted the law to live in the United States. In 2011, Brooks said at a town hall meeting that the U.S. should "do anything short of shooting them" to keep illegal aliens out of the country.
Tonight, Brooks pointed to the financial burden illegal aliens are putting on the economy. He said the U.S. Treasury was writing checks for about $4 billion per year in child tax credits to illegal aliens who are submitting fraudulent tax forms. He also said that estimates in Washington indicate illegal aliens are contributing $20 million per year to the tax system while consuming $100 million per year in taxes.
He acknowledged, however, that his views on immigration are "in the minority" in Washington. Immigration reform, including the amnesty program, has been a rare issue receiving bipartisan support.
Brooks' expertise: caucus memberships
It's curious that Bachmann would invite a member of the Gang of Six to meet with Minnesotans on immigration reform, since that might chill the discussion. Brooks was the author of the died-in-committee "Jobs for Americans Act of 2011."
Brooks serves on the House Armed Services committee and chairs the Research and Science Education Subcommittee of the House Science, Space and Technology committee. He's a member of the Congressional Immigration Reform Caucus (founded in 1999 by former Colorado Rep. Tom Tancredo) and the 112th Immigration Caucus and the Freshman Immigration Reform Caucus, which appear to be the same caucus, founded in 2011 by Rep. Lou Barletta (a Pennsylvania congressman whose take on immigration policy was satirized in an April 1 post at Keystone Politics).
The caucuses favor closed borders, withholding all federal funding to cities that do not strictly enforce federal immigration status laws, and other measures generally characterized as anti-immigrant by those seeking comprehensive immigration reform.
Research on immigrants and job creation
While Brooks' central assertion--that undocumented workers rob Americans of jobs--is a staple of anti-immigrant talking points, the record is mixed. The New York Times Magazine asked in 2012 Do Illegal Immigrants Actually Hurt the U.S. Economy?, noting:
. . .Labor economists have concluded that undocumented workers have lowered the wages of U.S. adults without a high-school diploma — 25 million of them — by anywhere between 0.4 to 7.4 percent.
The impact on everyone else, though, is surprisingly positive. Giovanni Peri, an economist at the University of California, Davis, has written a series of influential papers comparing the labor markets in states with high immigration levels to those with low ones. . . . In states with more undocumented immigrants, Peri said, skilled workers made more money and worked more hours; the economy’s productivity grew. From 1990 to 2007, undocumented workers increased legal workers’ pay in complementary jobs by up to 10 percent.
In March 2013, the National Journal reported in Left and Right Agree: Immigrants Don't Take American Jobs:
As Congress considers immigration reform, experts across the political spectrum say American jobs are safe.
That immigrants take the jobs of American-born citizens is “something that virtually no learned person believes in,” Alex Nowrasteh, an immigration expert at the libertarian Cato Institute, said at a Thursday panel. “It’s sort of a silly thing.”
Most economists don’t find immigrants driving down wages or jobs, the Brookings Institution's Michael Greenstone and Adam Looney wrote in May. In fact, “on average, immigrant workers increase the opportunities and incomes of Americans,” they write. Foreign-born workers don’t affect the employment rate positively or negatively, according to a 2011 analysis from the conservative American Enterprise Institute. And a study released Wednesday by the liberal Center for American Progress suggests that granting legal status to undocumented workers might even create jobs.
The CAP study, led by the visiting head of the Washington College economics department, sought to predict what would happen under immigration reform. The researchers considered a handful of scenarios. In each, it was presumed that the nation’s 11 million undocumented immigrants would be immediately granted legal status. They then looked at the effect of those undocumented immigrants not being granted citizenship at all over a decade, getting it immediately, or getting it in five years.
Legal status alone would lead to the creation of 121,000 extra jobs annually over the next 10 years, they found. Getting citizenship within five years would increase that to 159,000 jobs per year. And receiving both legal status and citizenship this year would create an extra 203,000 jobs annually.
Photo: Alabama Congressman Mo Brooks, Michele Bachmann's go-to guy for meetings with Minnesota Latinos advocating comprehensive immigration reform.
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