Immigration Causing Rift Among Republicans

Immigration is turning into an issue which is dividing Republicans, as business owners object to some hard line proposals. The Wall Street Journal Reports:

Ever since Republicans took over the House in 1994, they rarely have split with business, whether on taxes, regulation, labor or the environment. In turn, businesses have given Republicans steady support. Groups such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce consistently have awarded perfect or near-perfect scores to Republican lawmakers who vote the way they want on crucial issues — rankings that usually translate into campaign contributions.

This year, the immigration debate is straining that bond. In an election with control of Congress at stake, the spat could cost Republicans support in key districts. Business groups’ rankings have fallen for Republicans who support beefed-up border security but reject expanding legal immigration.

The Associated General Contractors of America and the National Roofing Contractors Association, among others, say they will cut or eliminate campaign contributions to some lawmakers taking hard-line immigration positions.

Immigration “has fundamentally altered our relationship with many offices,” says Craig Silvertooth, federal affairs director for the roofing group. “We are pulling back financially with some offices that in previous cycles we would not have hesitated to give to.” He said he has stopped meeting with some hard-line lawmakers but declined to name them.

The House and Senate have passed different immigration bills, and talks to iron out differences have stalled.

To be sure, most business interests continue to support Republicans. Few trade associations can afford to anger lawmakers who determine tax policy or dole out funding for lucrative projects.

That may explain why the debate doesn’t seem to be moving in the business community’s direction. “If the business community were voting on this, they’d be winning. But they’re not convincing anybody they’re voting on this,” says Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who backs House Republicans’ focus on enforcement, says: “If the business community believes they would be better off with Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid, they should go help them.”

Hard-line lawmakers are betting that a focus on enforcement — stopping illegal immigration at the border and stepping up deportation — will energize conservative voters. “The oath of office I took was not to hand-hold business,” says Rep. J.D. Hayworth, an Arizona Republican who is locked in a tight race. “It was to protect the citizens. … That is a responsibility I’m not going to abdicate.” But that could backfire if many Republicans with business ties sit out the election.

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