A group that once backed Donald Trump’s immigration policies will take the unusual step Wednesday of launching television ads accusing the president of breaking his campaign promise to crack down on immigration.
Other groups are sending email alerts to their supporters, some nearly daily, asking them to contact members of Congress to kill what they call Trump’s “amnesty” plan. And still others are blasting his proposal on Facebook and Twitter.
The common denominator, however, is a sense of betrayal by Trump’s compromise on immigration.
The president unveiled a plan that offers 1.8 million young immigrants a chance at citizenship, allow millions of immigrants to legally reside in the country through family reunification programs and fails to implement some popular secure enforcement measures.
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“What happened to the president that promised to put Americans first?” asks the narrator in the TV ad paid for by Californians for Population Stabilization and obtained by McClatchy. “Tweet Donald Trump and ask him.”
Together, these groups are reaching millions of like-minded Americans who oppose legal status for so-called Dreamers and back dramatic and immediate cuts to the number of legal immigrants allowed in the United States.
They want supporters to call or write lawmakers to urge them to oppose Trump’s proposal as Congress debates an immigration overhaul that would include providing legal status for at least the 690,000 young immigrants currently protected under an expiring Obama-era program.
Federation for American Immigration Reform already had agreed to sponsor FOX News’s online live stream of the State of the Union address when Trump unveiled an immigration plan it didn’t support. FAIR went ahead with its sponsorship plan but spread its own message on immigration through a call with several hundred activists, emails and social media. This week, the group is shepherding crime victims and sheriffs around the Capitol.
“We are utilizing all our assets — grassroots mobilization, digital platforms, paid radio and TV advertising, Hill outreach and ongoing education — to ensure the historic opportunity to enact true reforms is not squandered and that promises President Trump made are delivered,” said RJ Hauman, FAIR’s government relations director.
In addition to a path to citizenship, Trump’s proposal leaves in place the backlog of people who have been sponsored for residency by family and excludes enforcement measures to crack down on sanctuary cities and mandate E-verify, an online system that allows businesses to check work authorization.
The stakes couldn't be any higher. Unless YOU speak up, the same thing could happen that has happened before: illegal aliens get amnesty, while we get empty promises of weak enforcement
email from the Federation for American Immigration Reform to supporters
In the Senate, the 10 Democrats who face tough re-election bids in states Trump won and moderate Republicans are being urged by these groups not to endorse the president’s plan. In the House, Republicans are being lobbied by them to sign onto House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte’s immigration bill, which includes the additional enforcement measures that the White House plan does not.
Americans for Legal Immigration Political Action Committee is trying to find primary challengers for nearly 100 House Republicans who it claims support protections for Dreamers. “We’re trying to keep the focus on the GOP primary season,” said the group’s president, William Gheen. “Republican voters want what Trump promised.”
Trump won the GOP nomination and the presidency in 2016 largely on a campaign focused on cracking down on illegal immigration and ending Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals that offered Dreamers temporary, renewable work permits.
But after wavering for months, he announced in September he will completely shut down the DACA program March 5, a move designed to give Congress time to pass a legislative fix. But lawmakers haven’t been able to find a compromise. Instead, they agreed to fund the federal government until Thursday if Republican leaders committed to take up immigration, including the fate of Dreamers, this week.
After months of complaints by lawmakers, the White House released its own immigration proposal that was immediately criticized by the right and the left.
Former Rep. Brian Bilbray, a California Republican who served as chairman of the House Immigration Reform Caucus, said the proposal reminds some of the sweeping immigration law signed by President Ronald Reagan in 1986 that offered a pathway to citizenship to nearly 3 million immigrants.
“The White House is leading off with the wrong message across the border and that is what happened in back in the 80s,” he said. “We will give amnesty first and we promise enforcement. We want to do the easy, fun stuff first and we don’t want to do the heavy lifting first. We don’t want to earn the right to even talk about another amnesty.”
Trump proposed offering legal status immediately and citizenship in 12 to 12 years to 1.8 million young immigrants brought into the country illegally as children by their parents who would have been eligible under the original DACA program. In exchange, he would secure enforcement measures that conservatives have long wanted — $25 billion for border security, drastic reductions to the number of immigrants who could be sponsored by family and an end to the diversity lottery program that awards green cards to immigrants.
We presented the Congress with a detailed proposal that should be supported by both parties as a fair compromise — one where nobody gets everything they want, but where our country gets the critical reforms it needs
President Donald Trump in the State of the Union address
ALIPAC — which last year dropped its endorsement of Trump because he did not end DACA — posted a photo of a hat with the words “DACA will not MAGA,” sent two emails to its 50,000 supporters and posted messages to 600,000 Facebook fans and 27,000 Twitters followers.
The Remembrance Project, which bills itself as “a voice for victims killed by illegal aliens,” started a petition to Trump. “You often spoke of our angel families, our loved ones, real Americans, who have suffered the most, who never receive the same sympathy as illegals,” Maria Espinoza, co-founder and national director wrote in an open letter. “It appears to the “Stolen Lives” families and everyone who voted for a Trump presidency, that, sadly, these families indeed have been forgotten, and again silenced.”
Californians for Population Stabilization will launch a six-figure TV buy Wednesday in Washington and South Carolina, the home of Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., who has been negotiating a deal that would include a path to citizenship for Dreamers and a down payment on a $1.6 billion request Trump made this year for border security. The ad will run for at least two weeks.
“Trump campaigned on making America great again, including creating more jobs for working class Americans. And he's done a good job until now,” said Toby Nicole White, chief operating officer of the group, known as CAPS. “But his latest immigration plan sells this generation of working class Americans out....CAPS is calling on the president to stick to his campaign promises. Put Americans first.”
CAPS also sent out a pair of alerts to its 200,000 members and posted messages on Facebook, where it has 60,000 fans, urging supporters to contact the White House and Congress.
But some advocacy groups say it’s been tough to lobby against Trump’s proposal because it’s only a framework, not legislation. Others don’t want to publicly criticize the president.
NumbersUSA, which has been vocal about its opposition to Trump’s plan on Twitter, isn’t targeting him in its television ads. Instead, the group is focused on pushing for the end of what it calls chain migration, immigrants who have been sponsored for residency by a family member. It launched a six-figure nationwide ad campaign in December and later expanded it to a seven-figure buy in Florida, Indiana, Michigan, Montana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Wisconsin.
Chris Chmielenski, NumbersUSA’s director of content and activism, said the initial message was about the White House proposal but it has shifted back to proposals it supports.
The group also sent email alerts to 1 million supporters six times after White House proposal was unveiled, the first one at 11 p.m. Jan. 25, the day of the announcement. It has delivered its message through its 7.2 million Facebook fans and 30,000 Twitter followers.
Amnesty comes in many forms, but it seems they all eventually grow in size and scope. Any proposal that expands the amnesty-eligible population risks opening pandora’s box...That should be a non-starter
Heritage Action chief executive officer Michael A. Needham
Tom Davis, a former longtime Republican congressman from Virginia, said the group’s lobbying is understandable — as is the president’s attempt to bargain.
“They have a strong belief and certainly Trump was on their side on most of this stuff, that doesn't mean he can't compromise,” he said. “They have their bent and he has his. They don’t want a deal, they don't want any deal.”
McClatchy correspondents Lesley Clark and Franco Ordonez contributed.