One thing clear at this year’s Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) is that the conservative movement is sharply divided. The three prominent wings of the movement — fiscal, social, and national security conservatives — have become more autonomous in recent years. These divisions today are much more pronounced than in the years of Ronald Reagan’s presidency that most conservatives laud.
Currently, many forces are attempting to reunify these three conservative factions. All the while, the anti-immigrant movement is doing its best to influence the conversation. After decidedly unsuccessful attempts to mobilize liberals against immigration through population alarmism and front groups like Progressives for Immigration Reform (PFIR), the anti-immigrant movement now seems to focus virtually all of its efforts on influencing conservatives. In doing so, they have created messaging campaigns – and research to bolster them – that are tailor-made for each of the three prominent divisions of today’s conservative movement.
The presence of anti-immigrant organizations at yesterday’s “National Security Action Summit” was a blatant attempt to court national security conservatives. Mark Krikorian of the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) and Rosemary Jenks of NumbersUSA both spoke during a summit panel on immigration. Panel moderator and anti-Muslim conspiracy theorist Frank Gaffney asserted that immigration policy directly affects national security issues. Jenks and Krikorian have had plenty of time to rehearse this dialogue on immigration and national security as regular guests on Gaffney’s radio program.
The anti-immigrant movement also attempts to garner support from social conservatives with papers such as CIS fellow James Edwards Jr.’s 2009 “A Biblical Perspective on Immigration Reform”. Since then, Edwards has continued to write on the subject of immigration and religion – both elaborating on and updating arguments present in his original paper. Just last month, NumbersUSA attempted to discredit religious leaders who support immigration reforms by commissioning a poll to show evangelicals do not share the support for reform that their leaders do. The poll complements the messaging of a group Evangelicals for Biblical Immigration that both NumbersUSA and the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) have promoted in the past.
To draw more support from fiscal conservatives, both FAIR and CIS specifically also frequently release research showing the supposed costs of immigration. Just this week, FAIR released such a report focusing specifically on North Carolina. One of the biggest controversies the anti-immigrant movement faced last year stemmed from when it upheld a misleading and widely criticized report by the Heritage Foundation that claimed immigration reform would cost taxpayers trillions of dollars. Despite the controversy surrounding the report’s methodology and the racist background of co-author Jason Richwine, CIS Director of Research Steven Camarota heralded the report as “most detailed and exhaustive ever done on this topic.”
Media Research Council Founder and President Brent Bozell ended a panel yesterday calling for a return to America’s first principles and ending the practice of so-called “big tent” conservatism that, according to him, threatens “our very survival.” While a concerted effort to make their movement less inclusive will likely not bode well, conservatives should resist appeals from the organized anti-immigrant movement and ensure it does not come under the proverbial tent – no matter what size it may become.