Six Degrees of Grover Norquist

Grover Norquist is evil. Grover Norquist is an impediment to good governance. We’ve all heard the pundits detail – ad nauseum – about how the founder of Americans for Tax Reform is a pernicious force within our political discourse. However, what’s depraved about this whole episode in Norquist bashing, which I’m sure he’s thoroughly enjoying, is that it’s beginning to become part of the liberal lexicon to marginalize conservative principles. Or to put in another way, anything that’s against the liberal agenda is Norquist-esque. Hence, why it seems that liberals find little Grover Norquists in every level of conservative activism. The left’s latest target is NumbersUSA.

Jane C. Timm of MSNBC wasted no time in smearing Roy Beck, Founder of NumbersUSA, as the “Grover Norquist of the anti-immigration lobby” in her December 4 column. Beck’s organization seeks to curb the levels of immigration into this country. However, they aren’t anti-immigrant. In fact, Roy Beck has written that:

Nothing about this website [or this organization] should be construed as advocating hostile actions or feelings toward immigrant Americans; illegal aliens deserve humane treatment even as they are detected, detained and deported. Unfortunately, to write about problems of immigration is to risk seeming to attack immigrants themselves. Even worse is the risk of inadvertently encouraging somebody else to show hostility toward the foreign-born as a group.

I encounter too many immigrants and children of immigrants in daily affairs where I live in northern Virginia to take those risks lightly. From five continents, members of immigrant families have passed through my home, especially in the persons of friends of my sons. They are among the physical therapy patients of my wife; they are participants in youth activities which I lead; they are friends at my church, which has received national recognition for creating local service to new immigrants; they are neighbors; they are business clerks and owners where I trade.

Thus, as is the case for millions of other Americans, I have a very personal stake in not wanting to provoke hostility or discrimination toward the foreign-born who already are living among us.

But our kindly feelings toward immigrants must no longer stifle public discussion about the effects of immigration numbers.

One area of discussion centers on the increasing amount of immigrants dependent on government welfare programs. According to Judicial Watch’s report on the subject, which was released in April of 2011:

[The] census Bureau data reveals that most U.S. families headed by illegal immigrants use taxpayer-funded welfare programs on behalf of their American-born anchor babies. Even before the recession, immigrant households with children used welfare programs at consistently higher rates than natives, according to the extensive census data collected and analyzed by a nonpartisan Washington D.C. group dedicated to researching legal and illegal immigration in the U.S.

The results, published this month in a lengthy report, are hardly surprising.Basically, the majority of households across the country benefitting from publicly-funded welfare programs are headed by immigrants, both legal and illegal. States where immigrant households with children have the highest welfare use rates are Arizona (62%), Texas, California and New York with 61% each and Pennsylvania(59%).The study focused on eight major welfare programs that cost the government $517 billion the year they were examined. They include Supplemental Security Income (SSI) for the disabled, Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF), a nutritional program known as Women, Infants and Children (WIC), food stamps, free/reduced school lunch, public housing and health insurance for the poor (Medicaid).

Food assistance and Medicaid are the programs most commonly used by illegal immigrants, mainly on behalf of their American-born children who get automatic citizenship. On the other hand, legal immigrant households take advantage of every available welfare program, according to the study, which attributes it to low education level and resulting low income.

Without a doubt, immigrants are keeping the United States more economically vibrant than Europe – which has become older and grayer over the past decade. However, the amount of immigrants trapped within the webs of the Democrats’ dependency agenda is a legitimate topic of debate. It strikes at the heart of equality of outcome vs. equality of opportunity. What good are immigrants if they become entangled in a welfare state? That isn’t necessarily living up to our reputation as the land of opportunity.

However, any such diversion from the liberal narrative, which is amnesty, is derided as anti-immigrant. The passage of the STEM Act on November 30, mostly along party lines, showed the deep divide liberals and conservatives have on the issue. According to Elise Foley at The Huffington Post, who reported on this development, “Democrats opposed the bill because they want a more comprehensive approach, Republicans argued a piecemeal process would be a better path forward.” The bill increased visas for foreign nationals studying to earn advanced degrees in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM).

Timm concluded her piece with a rather frivolous question asking Beck if he “see similarities with Norquist’s role on taxes.” Of course, he does. Beck said, “in terms of style, there are some similarities between us, but he asked people to sign a pledge—that’s airtight…we are not that way. There are sometimes reasons for compromise…and you know…Grover Norquist is an open borders kind of guy.” He also filed a response to Timm’s piece on the same day. In his column, he wrote:

I spent about 90% of my long interview with the MSNBC reporter talking about how I created NumbersUSA in 1996 to carry out the recommendations of the bi-partisan U.S. Commission on Immigration Reform that was chaired by the late civil rights icon Barbara Jordan — and about how that commission was responding to a two-century debate about how loose or tight immigration policy should make the U.S. labor market. Looser labor markets hold down wages, while tighter labor markets push wages up and press employers to greater degrees of efficiency to justify the higher wages. The Barbara Jordan Commission (video) came down on the side of a tighter U.S. labor market. So does NumbersUSA.

In fact,”the commission found that the renewal of mass immigration over the last 30 years has created great economic injustices against the most vulnerable members of our society. Fighting against those injustices has always been at the heart of NumbersUSA’s activism, although neither that nor the commission itself was mentioned in the long MSNBC article.” Does this mean Rep. Barbara Jordan is anti-immigrant? In one category, Congresswoman Jordan proposed an:

elimination of other family-based admission categories, including:

  • Adult, unmarried sons and daughters of U.S. citizens;
  • Adult, married sons and daughters of U.S. citizens;
  • Adult, unmarried sons and daughters of legal permanent residents; and
  • Siblings of U.S. citizens.

Furthermore, she recommends that the level of admission for immigrants be set at 550,000 per year. That’s close to the NumbersUSA immediate goal of 500,000, which Beck describes as “a great compromise with contending interests.”

To say that Beck is the Grover Norquist of the immigration debate is a stretch. This is becoming a default setting for liberals when they lose legislative battles, or see outcomes they find unpalatable. One man cannot stop the massive leviathan of American government and to assume that Norquist, or Beck, could is absurd in the extreme.

The fact is that both sides are split on this issue. Republicans have the business wing and the conservative wing duking it out over this area of policy. Free-market conservatives, who favor a more lenient policy towards immigrants, especially illegals, since they provide a source of cheap labor, against cultural conservatives, who wish to see federal immigration laws more stringently enforced in the country. There’s nothing controversial about law and order.

Democrats have their tolerant wing and big labor fighting over what to do on immigration. Big labor hates losing contracts due to the cheap labor illegal immigrants provide, while tolerant liberals wish to emulate Lady Liberty without exception. Hence, why it’s been a nightmare to pass comprehensive reform in Congress.

Nevertheless, Beck and NumbersUSA represents a part of the debate, and they’re grounded in principle. They must have known MSNBC wouldn’t have been nice to them in their coverage, but they agreed to the interview anyway to articulate their positions. Immigration will be a highly salient issue for many years to come due to the demographic shift it has instigated. Republicans faired poorly with Latinos, and groups like NumbersUSA, will be at the forefront to give their opinions on how conservatives should frame the narrative. Groups who are more moderate than NumbersUSA should also made themselves known in this discussion. Let the great debate begin.

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Matt Vespa

I'm a staunch Republican and a politics junkie who was recently the Executive Director for the Dauphin County Republican Committee in Harrisburg. Before that, I interned with the Republican Party of Pennsylvania in the summer of 2011 and Mary Pat Christie, First Lady of NJ, within the Office of the Governor of NJ in 2010. I was responsible for updating his personal contact list. My first political internship was with Tom Kean Jr's. U.S. Senate campaign in 2006.

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