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Supreme Court ruling on campaign finance may hurt the GOP in immigration reform debate

by Keith Nelle, published

In light of the current economic emergency, state and federal policy makers may soon be looking towards simple ways to reduce the deficit while garnering public support.  Immigration reform may very well be one of these issues.  If and when politicians revisit these concerns, it will be interesting to see whether the GOP’s current position on immigration reform will change as a result of the Supreme Court’s decision on campaign finance reform. With businesses' and unions' newfound ability to spend on political campaigns, will they now demand a more “business friendly” approach to immigration reform as well?

Last week, CAIVN chronicled the Supreme Court’s ruling which overturned previous case law to allow corporations and unions to spend limitless amounts of money on political campaigns.  On the topic of immigration, businesses and corporations will support political candidates who share their ideals on immigration policy.  It is conceivable then, that the popular opinion on immigration reform may get trumped, simply because of the flow of money from the corporate world.   Business interests primarily lie in the fact that illegal workers offer cheap labor, and therefore help corporations to maximize  profits.  Hence, with their ability to open up company coffers to influence policy makers, it is expected that business will be putting this new power to work on opponents of comprehensive immigration reform. What does this mean for the GOP?  Unless the GOP alters its position on immigration reform, it could potentially miss out on campaign funds, and inadvertently strengthen the relationship between Democrats and business.

The GOP’s general stance on immigration is enough to potentially scare business away.  Conservative opponents of comprehensive immigration reform generally favor tougher restrictions and penalties for illegal immigrants, like strengthening border infrastructure and refusing any policy that comes close to giving amnesty. With the confirmation of Republican Senator Scott Brown, the Republicans have the capability to block and filibuster immigration reform to prevent any legislative victory for Democrats and the Obama Administration.  But, the GOP has failed to realize that the Supreme Court’s decision on campaign financing may have dramatically decreased their ability to maintain party discipline to vote against the Democrats and comprehensive immigration reform.

Already, corporations, labor unions and business coalitions have begun to align themselves in order to help pass comprehensive immigration reform.  Paul Bedard, columnist for U.S. News & World Report recently explained:

     “The A.F.L.-C.I.O and Change to Win, two vital segments of the American labor movement, forged a compromise to support the immigration reform effort, including a disciplined path to citizenship for the undocumented.  And the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union and Service Employees International Union, both of which have thousands of immigrant members have been routinely supportive of reform measures.” 

Rather than standing against these labor organizations, business owners have began to form coalitions in favor of reform.  Small business owners argue they are simply unable to compete without hiring illegal workers.  Larger corporations are able to bid for jobs at a less expensive price and small business owners lose out on potential opportunities.  At a time when jobs are scarce, small business owners are going to hire illegal workers rather than go bankrupt.  And for those businesses that choose to follow the law, their frustration is beginning to boil over.  In a recent CNN piece, Modechai Orian, a business owner who supplies temporary agricultural workers to growers, expressed his frustration on the lack of government support, "You have a guy who wants to break the law, and when you call the government you run into a brick wall. Enough is enough."

Currently, immigration reform has taken a backseat to the economy and healthcare in the political realm. But, when the economy improves, immigration reform will undoubtedly resurface. Conservatives, and those who oppose pathways to citizenship for illegals, should be alarmed.  For in this instance, the Supreme Court’s business friendly decision on campaign finance reform will work against them by forcing conservatives to weigh their political survival against their political principles. 

Will the lure of money pull conservatives towards the center or will they reject it and risk alienating business on the precipice of an election year? We will have to wait and see, but in the meantime, one thing is certainly clear; business does not care about political parties or what is best for the nation. Rather, business only wants what is best for their bottom line. 

Unfortunately, the GOP may be about to find this out the hard way.    

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