GOP Civil War Over Immigration Reform Intensifies

In a New York Times column entreating House Republicans to “Pass the Bill!” David Brooks hit back at conservatives urging Republicans to obstruct all efforts against a comprehensive immigration bill. In the column, Brooks dismantled their arguments against reform, writing that not passing a comprehensive bill “could be a tragedy for the country and political suicide for Republicans, especially because the conservative arguments against the comprehensive approach are not compelling.”

He concluded:

Whether this bill passes or not, this country is heading toward a multiethnic future. Republicans can either shape that future in a conservative direction or, as I've tried to argue, they can become the receding roar of a white America that is never coming back.

That's what's at stake.

Brooks' column is the latest salvo in an emerging civil war on the right over immigration reform. It has pitted the likes of Brooks, Fox News host Bill O'Reilly, and Fox News contributor Karl Rove against Bill Kristol, Rich Lowry, Fox News contributor Laura Ingraham, Rush Limbaugh and the anti-immigrant, extremist wing of the GOP.

Indeed, Brooks' column comes a few days after an op-ed by The Weekly Standard's Kristol and The National Review's Lowry, titled “Kill the Bill,” which called for House Republicans to "[put] a stake through" comprehensive immigration reform:

House Republicans should make sure not to allow a conference with the Senate bill. House Republicans can't find any true common ground with that legislation. Passing any version of the Gang of Eight's bill would be worse public policy than passing nothing. House Republicans can do the country a service by putting a stake through its heart.

That op-ed has now been supplemented with an ad posted at National Review Online that calls on readers to sign a petition urging House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) “to reject a conference with the Senate on immigration legislation”:

The petition ends:

[W]e, the undersigned, call upon you to kill the Senate's Gang of Eight immigration bill and make sure it doesn't come to the House Floor in any form.

Passing any version of the Gang of Eight's bill would be worse public policy than passing nothing. House Republicans can do the country a service by putting a stake through its heart." -Lowry and Kristol.

Kristol and Lowry are joined by others, including Ingraham, who has used her radio show to become a particularly strident voice in the debate. On July 10, for example, she told Boehner to “walk away from this trap set by” Democrats calling for immigration reform. She has repeatedly floated the idea of challenging Republicans who support comprehensive immigration reform and declared that reform will be “the end of the Republican Party.” She has also allied herself with anti-immigrant and nativist groups in her campaign against reform, which has been marked by attacks on immigrants and Latinos.

Fox News regular Ann Coulter has warned that “if the House passes anything concerning immigration” and conference with representatives from the Senate, the resultant bill “will come out an amnesty bill.” She claimed that if a reconciled bill passed, “the country is over.”

Radio talk host and Fox regular Mark Levin has stated that the Senate immigration bill is a "disgusting disgrace" and a "crap sandwich."

Limbaugh has also been a vocal opponent of reform. On July 9, he urged House Republicans to refuse to act on immigration reform, saying: “Why can't we just say no? You guys don't get everything you want. Well, we can't be the party of no. Why not? They already say we're the party of no. What's wrong with saying no in this case. Saying no in this case would be pretty, pretty wise.”

On the other side, those in favor of reform are no less visible.

On his June 20 show,  O'Reilly stated that he “supports immigration reform, even though I well understand the new law will be somewhat chaotic and will be a magnet for even more people to come here illegally, which is why we need stepped-up security along the border.” He went on to say: “The Republican Party has a lot to lose here. If it doesn't compromise, many Hispanic voters will reject the GOP entirely, pretty much dooming the party in the future. That's reality.”

On July 10, O'Reilly added that the fact that House Republicans want to kill the immigration bill will “mean the chaotic status quo would remain and the Southern border would not be made more secure.”

In a July 9 editorial that expressed support for an immigration bill with a path to citizenship and took a shot at “the loudest voices on talk radio,” The Wall Street Journal wrote that if House Republicans kill immigration reform, it “would be a policy blunder and perhaps a political disaster.” The Journal concluded:

The dumbest strategy is to follow the Steve King anti-immigration caucus and simply let the Senate bill die while further militarizing the border. This may please the loudest voices on talk radio, but it ignores the millions of evangelical Christians, Catholic conservatives, business owners and free-marketers who support reform. The GOP can support a true conservative opportunity society or become a party of closed minds and borders.

Karl Rove, a Fox News contributor and columnist for The Wall Street Journal is also in favor of reform. He said on Fox News Radio: “I believe we need to get this issue resolved. We have de facto amnesty. ... We have a system that's broke. I want to fix this system.” He added: “I don't think this bill is perfect but I want the process to continue so the House Republicans could be heard from and the Senate and House conference can see if they can arrive at a conference bill that's worthy of support.”

Rove has even marshaled the vast resources of his super PAC, Crossroads GPS, in support of reform with the launch of a series of TV and print ads urging conservatives to "tell Congress: fix the immigration mess."