A source close to the ATR immigration work says Norquist frequently fields calls from state legislators who need rhetorical ammo to fight Arizona-type immigration laws, and he often hears about how they’re under pressure from NumbersUSA, the Center for Immigration Studies, and the Federation for American Immigration Reform. He gives daily political advice to pro-reform lawmakers nationwide. He says it’s key to make people aware that there’s a substantial sector of the conservative movement that wants more immigrants and comprehensive reform.
ATR has also worked to battle anti-comprehensive-immigration groups. For instance, Mario Lopez wrote a study called “Hijacking Immigration?” that appeared in the Human Life Review. It argues that there is a connection between some groups that are opposed to reform and the population-control movement. In short, Lopez argues that anti-comprehensive-reform forces are often also pro-abortion, pro-eugenics, and pro-sterilization. ATR’s leaders have put the Lopez study in front of every prominent social conservative leader they know.
ATR and Norquist are also in the loop on Gang of Eight talks. They get inside information on the status of the discussions, and they pass that information along to conservative leaders. They don’t directly shape the Senate negotiations, but they work to influence Republican messaging.
They’re trying to give Senator Marco Rubio’s office a little relief, at least in the public square and within the movement. Rubio’s staffers have run the conservative Republican pro-reform push almost singlehandedly in Congress, says a source close to ATR’s work, who argues that Rubio has been instrumental in nudging his colleagues behind the scenes. Norquist and his aides say they are the Rubio office’s comrades-in-arms. They don’t directly coordinate with Rubio’s office, but they do try to help shoulder the burden of pushing a controversial policy to a skeptical audience.
And in the meantime, ATR will keep hosting meetings on Fridays, a few floors above Twelfth Street. Norquist, as ever, is confident that soon enough conservatives and Senate Republicans will come around to his view, and that the end-of-week huddles may influence the immigration deliberations in way a similar, perhaps, to how the Wednesday meeting has influenced the fiscal debate.
— Betsy Woodruff is a William F. Buckley Fellow at the National Review Institute.