Conservatives declare opposition to Senate immigration bill

A coalition of influential conservative leaders have published an open letter announcing their strong opposition to the 800-plus-page Senate immigration reform bill.

Conservatives blasted what they dubbed the Schumer-Rubio bill as a “bloated and unwieldy” package comparable to ObamaCare or the 2010 Dodd-Frank Wall Street reform law.

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Sens. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) are two members of the Senate’s Gang of Eight, which drafted the bill after months of private negotiations.

The coalition, which includes Rich Lowry, editor of National Review; Jenny Beth Martin, co-founder of Tea Party Patriots; and Phyllis Schlafly, president of Eagle Forum, urged lawmakers to dump the legislation.

“Many of us support various parts of the legislation, but the overall package is so unsatisfactory that the Senate would do better to start over from scratch,” they wrote.

They argued the legislation would cede “excessive control over immigration law to an administration that has repeatedly proven itself to be untrustworthy, even duplicitous.”

Democrats on the Judiciary Committee on Monday voted down by a party-line vote an amendment sponsored by Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) that would have removed authority from the secretary of Homeland Security to waive the deportation of immigrants guilty of three misdemeanors.

The conservative coalition says the comprehensive immigration bill would legalize millions of immigrants before securing the border and hurt citizens looking for jobs, especially those with lower levels of education.

The legislation would also threaten to “bankrupt our already strained entitlement system” and expand government “by creating new bureaucracies, authorizing new spending and calling for endless regulations.”

A study issued earlier this month by the Heritage Foundation projected the legislation would add $6.3 trillion to the federal deficit over the lifetimes of the estimated 11 million illegal immigrants put on a path to legalization.

Conservative leaders argue the legislation contains a variety of “dangerous loopholes that threaten national security.”

Rubio on Monday broke with Democratic colleagues over proposed changes to immigration rules for political asylum seekers and student visa holders.

A spokesman for Rubio criticized the Judiciary Committee for defeating a Republican amendment to delay changes for asylum and student visa rules until Congress receives a report from the Director of National Intelligence on the Boston Marathon bombing.

The father of the bombers came to the United States after receiving political asylum, and two of the bomber’s friends who are accused of attempting a cover-up held lapsed student visas.

“Reforming our immigration system is an important priority. But S. 744 is such a defective measure that it would do more harm than good,” the conservatives wrote.

Other signatories include former Rep. Allen West (R-Fla.); Judson Phillips, founder of Tea Party Nation; radio host Laura Ingraham; and David Frum, a former Bush administration official and founder of FrumForum.com.

Their letter comes nearly two weeks after another group of prominent conservatives issued a statement praising the pending legislation.

A group of 31 conservative leaders including Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform, and Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, signed a May 8 statement touting the Senate bill as “an important starting point in the effort to improve what even those opposed to the bill agree is a failed and broken system”.

They argued the bill's creation of triggers to insure border security before any immigrant receives permanent legal status would create a more merit-based visa program.

Doug Holtz-Eakin, president of the American Action Forum, Fred Malek, chairman of the American Action Forum and Ralph Reed, chairman of the Faith and Freedom Coalition, also signed the May 8 statement.

This story was updated at 11:28 a.m.

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