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Conservative talkers, grassroots groups push anti-immigration reform effort

 

Several prominent conservative media figures are backing a new effort by groups who oppose bipartisan comprehensive immigration reform, signaling growing willingness from conservative outlets to marshal their audiences against the bill.

Signatories on a new open letter to Congress titled “The Wrong Way to Reform Immigration” include RedState editor Erick Erickson, radio hosts Laura Ingraham and Mark Levin, and columnist Michelle Malkin.

“No matter how well intentioned, the Schumer-Rubio bill suffers from fundamental design flaws that make it unsalvageable,” the letter states. “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.”

The letter, originally circulated by Eagle Forum president Phyllis Schlafly, is also signed by over 100 individuals and grassroots organizations, including former Rep. Allen West, Tea Party Patriots co-founder Jenny Beth Martin, and author David Limbaugh, the brother of famed conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh.

While the influence of conservative radio hosts was widely credited for the collapse of a 2007 effort to overhaul the nation’s immigration system, a trio of controversies – the IRS targeting scandal, the Justice Department leak probe and the Benghazi talking points spat – have largely dominated the airwaves as the current bill works its way through the Senate Judiciary Committee.

While activists working against the bill believe that grass-roots support can again topple the effort to create a pathway to citizenship for the nation's 11 million undocumented immigrants, most concede that the overwhelming Hispanic support for President Barack Obama in the 2012 election made vocal opposition to the bipartisan bill far less politically palatable for Republican lawmakers this time. Additionally, several major groups are still sitting out the fight, like the anti-tax Club for Growth and grass-roots clearinghouse FreedomWorks.

The opposition letter comes after a pledge of support for immigration reform from a coalition of conservative groups that called the bill "an important starting point" and urged Republicans in the Senate to "work to improve the legislation." That letter, organized by the American Conservative Union, was signed by a variety of Latino, faith and public policy groups -- many of which met  earlier this month with Florida Republican Marco Rubio, the key Senate negotiator working to build conservative support for the bill. 

Still, despite steady progress for the Senate legislation and a breakthrough compromise from a bipartisan House group last week, opponents of the legislation feel emboldened by what they see as renewed mistrust of the federal government – particularly in the wake of the IRS controversy.

On Monday, foes of the legislation got an additional boost when the union representing 12,000 employees of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services said it will oppose the Senate bill, in part because of an “insurmountable bureaucracy” created at the agency that processes immigration documents.

Activists also plan to hold more than 40 local events nationwide Tuesday to highlight opposition to the Senate legislation.

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