After the June 2007 defeat of comprehensive immigration reform, immigration restrictionists didn’t rest. By drumming up grassroots opposition to the compromise immigration bill in the Senate, the Washington restrictionist institutes – NumbersUSA, Federation for American Immigration Reform, and Center for Immigration Studies – succeeded is pressuring Republican and Democratic representatives to stop the reform bill. What is more, they succeeded in getting the Bush Administration to implement a tough enforcement-first response to illegal immigration. Seeing that the Bush administration enthusiastically adopting the enforcement-first policy, the restrictionists then unified around an “attrition through enforcement” strategy, and the White House, Congress, and many local government largely followed their lead as deportations, immigration raids, and border security initiatives picked up pace. While triumphant, they didn’t just lay back and celebrate. Instead, strengthened by a large jump in memberships and new media attention, they kept pushing their anti-immigration agenda. When Democrats attempted to slip through a small immigration reform bill called the Dream Act, they again mobilized their legions of anti-immigration stalwarts around the country. And when Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) attempted to respond to agribusiness pressure for an agricultural guestworker program in late 2007, the resticiontist mobilized again, persuading the bill sponsors to drop the proposed Ag Jobs bill. What lies ahead? Already the restrictionists are anticipating that the country may lose its enthusiasm for “attrition through enforcement” as its emotional and financial toll adds up. Rather than pull back, the restrictionists are expanding their demands with new arguments against not just illegal immigration but also legal immigration. In response to the economic downturn and increased enforcement, incoming flows of illegal immigrants have slowed, but the number of legal immigrants has held steady -- and restrictionists are already arguing that that level is far too high.
All three groups are also working in lock-step in a new campaign to reach environmentalists and environmentally focused citizens with a message about the environmental costs of immigration. And they are set to oppose any new initiative by the new administration to legalize unauthorized immigrations.
“The stepped-up enforcement of the past year may peel off some enforcement-first voters and congressmen who are willing to be persuaded that the enforcement is now happening, and is adequate, to move ahead with the amnesty,” observed Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies, which promotes enforcement-first policies. The Bush White House, he added, “sees this enforcement push as building credibility for the next administration to have an amnesty.”