Lobbying for Immigration – the Interest of Interest Groups

This week in class, we discussed Lobbying and Interest Groups.  Interest groups have their own agenda, obviously, and these agendas have sway.  These interest groups, which  differ from political parties (even though parties are aligned with similar interests), are incredibly strong and can affect legislation, whether they draft it themselves or influence and target committees or leaders to influence the law.  

Representative Scott Tipton, Republican of Colorado, is one such leader that has been targeted by interest groups that want reform to be passed.  Colorado, and especially Tipton’s district, has a high level of immigrants and hispanics, as his district has a huge agricultural center.  It would make sense for him to support some level of reform in order to please constituents.  He supports some sort of reform, while attempting to hold accountable the 11 million illegal immigrants already in the country.  “’We’ve got some that were looking for a better life, but they broke the laws to this country,’” he said. “’That can’t be without penalty.’”  This attitude understandably angers certain constituents.

However, he seems slightly receptive to listening to constituents, or maybe it’s because his district has a large immigrant population.  Regardless, he and eight other Republican members of Congress have been targeted by a coalition of immigration advocates to push reform through the House.  This interest group is now pointing to the election aspect of not passing reform: ‘We feel that to move them, we have to awaken the electoral vulnerability that Republicans face, both specific Republicans that have large and growing immigrant electorates and also the party as a national party,’ said Tom Snyder, the immigration campaign director for the A.F.L.-C.I.O., one of the groups behind the campaign. ‘It’s very hard to think about them winning a presidential election with an immigrant electorate that’s growing and overwhelmingly hostile to the party.’”

This is a good point.  Lobbyists and interest groups, with the advancement of technology, have the opportunity to gain support from voters all over the country.  Voters, if truly passionate, can be mobilized.  One thing we mentioned in class, however, is that this mobilization may not be believable to the members of Congress, which may cause them to continue this stalemate by not taking action.  

Other interest groups, like the technology sector, argue that this stalemate harms the US as a whole because, without various immigrants or information provided by immigration, the US will fall behind technologically, which is contrary (hopefully) to the wishes of members of Congress. 

Regardless of who or which interest groups want change, one thing is for sure – increased pressure by interest groups and lobbying may hopefully cause change.  Otherwise, 2014 will be an interesting year for Republicans.  

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13 responses to “Lobbying for Immigration – the Interest of Interest Groups”

  1. Jane L. says :

    This post is very interesting because it points out that supporting immigration reform is not just about pleasing Hispanic constituents in hopes of gaining reelection. Immigration is also multidimensional, as evidenced by the involvement of the technology interest groups, who value immigration reform because immigrants play an important role in technological advancement, and are thus invaluable to the economy. Do you think the lobbyists could expand their targeting efforts to representatives with districts that rely heavily on technology, instead of focusing exclusively on those with high immigrant populations? Immigrant reform could be framed as an economic policy.

    • legprocess says :

      I, unfortunately, disagree with the notion that immigration reform could ever be framed as an economic policy. While recently immigration has been very important to the advancement of technology, I think people are so embedded in their roots to try and overlook their feelings on immigration to realize how it benefits our economy. I do, however, think it is beneficial to interest groups advocating both issues to try and work together to show the nation and our government that although the issues are different, together they make a large difference in our country as a whole.

      • Chris Gibson says :

        I agree – while you can make a very convincing economic argument for immigration reform, this isn’t likely to sway the vast majority of non-immigrant voters, who may see the issue more in terms of “they broke the law to come here” rather than “they’re performing valuable services to our economy that most Americans wouldn’t want to do themselves.”

        Another thing I think people might forget in this debate is that the prior support Congressmen enjoy is not guaranteed. Just because a district is 20-30% Hispanic, a Congressman can’t just jump to support immigration reform and win over these constituents. The other 70-80% of their district could be very anti-immigrant, and any move in a reform direction could cause these people to support a more right-wing conservative instead, further limiting chances for reform.

      • legiprocess says :

        I’d argue that immigration reform can definitely be an economic policy. Our nation’s economy was built by immigrants, and reforming our immigration policies would certainly sway the economy. There are a lot of factors involved, so I couldn’t say whether the current immigration reform proposals would influence it for better or worse, but you could definitely make it into an economic issue whether you’re in support or against it. I think it’s just more useful for both parties to make it an ideological thing.

        – Will

  2. Emily Moore says :

    Hey, guys, who wrote this post?

  3. Kate says :

    There is no doubt that immigration reform makes economic sense- the CBO released a compelling report to that effect this summer. But immigration reform, as the post suggests, also shows the limitations of the power of interest groups to sway Congress. Perhaps it is because the people most directly effected by immigration reform and a legalization process are people who are not eligible to vote, but it seems that even traditionally powerful lobbies like labor unions are not able to move the Republicans in Congress on this issue.

    • legprocess says :

      Kate–
      You bring in a huge point about those who are directly effected by immigration reform are not those who can participate in the electoral system. However, I believe that Immigration reform is going to happen with a realistic path to citizenship for those individuals already in the US very soon. With continued opposition by Republicans for sensible immigration reform, once the illegal immigrants become citizens and eligible voters–they might hold a level of resentment against the party that tried so hard to hold them out, further damaging the (slim) chances of success for the Republican party.
      -Sophie S.

      • legiprocess says :

        I think the Republicans are caught between their party members (many of which feel strongly about curbing immigration) and the growing number of immigrants that may soon be able to vote. They don’t want to alienate their own party members just to support views closer to the other party’s. There will inevitably be one group of voters alienated by the outcome: Republican members now who do not want immigration reform, or immigrants who gained the right to vote. They have to figure out which is the lesser of two evils.
        -Steph

      • willralls says :

        I agree with Steph. The Republicans are fighting a losing a strategy. It’s only a matter of time before states like Texas, Republican locks, become battle grounds due to the years of anti-immigrant polices by the GOP and young new voters. Unfortunately, it’s a collective action problem. If one candidates tries to move to the left, he or she might be upended in a primary by a hardliner. With everyone fearing that kind of challenge the party as a whole is paralyzed until strong party leadership sets the tone by protecting candidates that go left on immigration policy.

  4. legiprocess says :

    I wonder how effective the immigration movement in Colorado will be in swaying Scott Tipton. If his district is predominately conservative and anti-immigration, he still will not be swayed by interest groups and minority activists.
    Do you know how the median voter in his district is responding to the immigration issue? Are the activists pulling the median voter towards supporting immigration reform?

    -Jenny Wu

    • caelegislativeblog says :

      Jenny-
      I haven’t been able to find any polls that answer your question, but I did find information about the district. In the past few presidential elections, the district voted for the Republican candidate, but had a democratic representative until 2010. Tipton beat out the democratic incumbent by 5%. I’d say that the district seems to be split almost evenly between Democrats and Republicans. I think this is reflected in Tipton’s message when he says “’We’ve got some that were looking for a better life, but they broke the laws to this country,’” “’That can’t be without penalty.’”. Maybe Tipton won’t budge because doing so in either direction could hurt his chances at re-election.

      -Arthur Townsend

  5. Brian N. says :

    While I understand that there are a limited number of Republican house seats that are in play, and even fewer that have big immigrant populations, 8 congressmen, even with all of the Democrats, don’t make a majority. Its highly unlikely that many other Republicans are going to break on this, and even if they were, I seriously doubt Boehner would let this bill come to the floor – he would just get rolled again. I don’t like the chances of immigration reform anytime soon.

    • willralls says :

      I have to reluctantly agree with Brian. I want to believe that electoral pressures will push more Republicans to support immigration reform, but that bubble already burst early this year. The party simply isn’t ready. And Boehner would be foolish to allow another rolling of his party on a bill that can’t be twisted as anything but a major legislative win for the Demcorats in the lead up to the 2014 election. The GOP would rather take the immigrant backlash down the road (like in a decade) than in 2014.

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