Conservative advocacy group Heritage Action is loading Republican lawmakers up with anti-immigration talking points ahead of a massive lobbying push by right-leaning supporters of reform.
Some of the talking points appear to reference a study that was co-authored by a Heritage scholar who resigned earlier this year after news broke that his Harvard thesis claimed Latinos are inherently less intelligent.
The report itself was widely mocked for its estimates on the cost of immigration reform.
Heritage may have distanced itself from its former scholar's views on race, but not the study he did for their think tank. In a memo to Congressional staff obtained by msnbc, Heritage legislative strategist Tripp Baird Baird said that while some supporters of reform on the Hill this week are "well meaning" in their concern for immigrants, "they’re being used to advance an amnesty policy that is far from conservative, and will cost trillions to American taxpayers." Another talking point suggests that evangelical Christians supporting immigration reform "probably aren’t aware of the severe fiscal consequences of amnesty for American taxpayers."
The "cost trillions" line echoes a report co-authored for Heritage by Robert Rector and Jason Richwine. They claimed May that the Senate bill would blow up the deficit by $6.3 trillion, mostly because they were pessimistic immigrants would substantially improve their economic standing even over many generations.
This is a far cry from the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office's findings that the Senate's immigration bill would cut the deficit by about $900 billion over the next two decades through improved growth and a boost to the Social Security trust fund from young immigrant workers. A new report by the Bipartisan Policy Center distirbued to "fly-in" participants on Tuesday estimated the 20-year savings even higher at $1.17 trillion.
That report turned into a fiasco for Heritage, however, when the Washington Post uncovered past writings by Richwine in which he argued against immigration becaue Hispanics are genetically predisposed to having lower IQs. He also suggested that immigration opponents who subscribe to this view hide its incendiary racial component by arguing for expanded "high skilled" immigration instead of improting "low skilled" workers. That's Heritage's position. It didn't help that Richwine had expounded on his views about Hispanics in two posts for a white nationalist website.
Heritage disavowed Richwine's racial claims while reaffirming his findings, but Richwine resigned amid widespread criticism of both the study's methodology and his own discredited views on race. His study's arguments are apparently still showing up in recommended talking points for Congressional opponents of reform.
The memo comes as hundreds of business owners, religious leaders, politicians, and law enforcement officials from around the country are in Washington this week, part of a broad campaign by immigration supporters to court Republican House members. The group gathered at the Chamber of Commerce, a leading backer of the effort, to hear from pro-immigration panelists on Tuesday morning before heading to the Capitol for meetings.
In addition to the Richwine study's claims, Heritage's memo recommended describing Tuesday's "fly-in" to sell reform as a big money plot.
"The new pressure on House members to pass amnesty for illegal immigrants – an effort bankrolled by well-known liberal billionaires such as George Soros, Michael Bloomberg and Mark Zuckerberg -- couldn’t be more detached from the sentiments of the American people," the memo read. Zuckerberg's immigration advocacy group FWD.us was one of the participants in the gathering, as was Bloomberg's Partnership For A New America. But Bloomberg's group is jointly led by News Corp founder Rupert Murdoch, not exactly a famed liberal.
Heritage confirmed the memo's authenticity and said they stand by their strategy.
“There has been very little media scrutiny of the National Immigration Forum’s fly in of ‘conservatives,'" a spokesman for Heritage, Dan Holler, told msnbc. "Heritage Action will continue to make the case, both in Congress and back in districts, that amnesty is inherently unfair. This week’s fly in is nothing more than an attempt by big-government, pro-amnesty liberals to co-opt conservative lawmakers.”
The full memo can be found below:
Subject: Fly in talker -immigration Main Messages:1. To build the trust of the American people, immigration reform should be a step-by-step process that begins with securing the border and enforcing existing laws. The President has not demonstrated he can be trusted to do either -- no matter how many more laws Congress passes.2. Conservatives are right to be concerned that any action in the House on immigration reform would lead to a conference with the Senate resulting in a compromise that looks like the Senate-passed amnesty for millions of illegal immigrants.Fly-in Focus Points:The new pressure on House members to pass amnesty for illegal immigrants – an effort bankrolled by well-known liberal billionaires such as George Soros, Michael Bloomberg and Mark Zuckerberg -- couldn’t be more detached from the sentiments of the American people.• Americans consistently say their most pressing concerns include jobs, the economy and health care – and immigration reform is at the bottom of their list. Now we see big moneymen flying in dozens of business, labor and religious activists to Washington on Oct. 28 to help them push through an amnesty scheme that is unfair, costly and won’t work.• According to the Congressional Budget Office, the Senate-passed bill would open the door to millions of new illegal immigrants. Many of those being flown in to Washington to lobby conservative House members surely are well-meaning. But they’re being used to advance an amnesty policy that is far from conservative, and will cost trillions to American taxpayers.• Ordinary citizens naturally become more skeptical of this “fly-in” scheme when they learn that pro-amnesty leftist financier George Soros is a generous benefactor of the event’s main organizer, the National Immigration Forum. Some participants, including evangelical Christians, are concerned with social justice. But they probably aren’t aware of the severe fiscal consequences of amnesty for American taxpayers – not to mention it would encourage a future flow of illegal immigrants.• A recent news report quoted one pastor as saying he isn’t for blanket amnesty for illegal immigrants -- but the problem is the Senate-passed bill is exactly that.• One has to wonder how many of those being flown in truly represent the views of their congregations, employees, fellow workers and neighbors on specific problems in the system. Conservatives are for legal immigration, but against illegal immigration. The proposals on the table not only continue business as usual – they are unfair to those waiting in line and make things worse for current citizens.