Does Haley Barbour Have An Immigration Problem?
Haley Barbour is making all the moves toward a 2012 Presidential run, but his stand on immigration issues could pose a problem in the Republican primaries.
Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour was among those who garnered much attention at CPAC this year, and the speculation that he’s gearing up a run for the White House has has increased as a result. Barbour’s biggest problem in the GOP primary, though, may be his long history of lobbying in Washington, D.C., especially as it relates to the hot-button issue of immigration:
Barbour may be eager to showcase his record, but one of Barbour’s foreign lobbying clients could cause him some troubles in the 2012 Republican primary, if he decides to run. According to a State Department filing by Barbour’s former lobbying firm, The Embassy of Mexico decided to retain Barbour’s services on August 15, 2001, to work on, among other things, legislation that would provide a path to citizenship for foreigners living illegally in the United States—what opponents of immigration reform call “amnesty.”
“Haley Barbour and I will lead the BG&R team,” wrote Lanny Griffith, Barbour’s former business partner, in the filing. According to subsequent filings, Barbour’s work included “building support in the legislative branch for passage of a bill related to Section 245(i) of the Immigration and Nationality Act.” As part of that work, Barbour’s firm arranged meetings and briefings with “Senators, members of Congress and their staffs, as well as Executive Branch Officials in the White House, National Security Council, State Department, and Immigration & Naturalization Service.” Barbour’s firm charged Mexico $35,000 a month, plus expenses.
At the time, Mexico was seeking an extension of a provision that allowed undocumented immigrants living in the United States to receive legal visas or green cards without returning to their country of origin, provided they pay an additional fine.
In taking this side of the argument, Barbour was on the opposite side of many of the conservative activists whose support he’s now courting:
At the time of Barbour’s lobbying, the 245(i) effort was referred to as “mini-amnesty” in conservative circles.”This amnesty loophole allowed aliens who broke our laws to pay a $1,000 fine and go to the head of the line in front of prospective immigrants who complied with our laws,” opined Phyllis Schlafly, founder of the Eagle Forum, in a 2002 column.
Of course, this 2001-02 lobbying effort is only one aspect of Barbour’s immigration position that stands in contrast to the contemporary right wing. He’s long been an advocate of the “path to citizenship” approach to illegal immigration and, just last year, told the Hoover Institution that the idea that we’re going to be able to deport everyone who’s in the country illegally is simply absurd:
I don’t know where we would have been in Mississippi after Katrina if it hadn’t been with the Spanish speakers that came in to help rebuild. And there’s no doubt in my mind some of them were here illegally. Some of them were, some of them weren’t. But they came in, they looked for the work. If they hadn’t been there — if they hadn’t come and stayed for a few months or a couple years — we would be way, way, way behind where we are now. . . . A lot of it is just common sense. And common sense tell us we’re not going to take 10 or 12 or 14 million people and put them in jail and deport them. We’re not gonna do it, and we need to quit — some people need to quit acting like we are and let’s talk about real solutions.
Personally, I think Barbour is close to a sane, rational approach to this issue in his comments above. Unfortunately, those in the GOP who have tried to take this approach has become close to unacceptable among activists on the right, who seem to prefer the idea of patrolling the border in a manner that would make the East Germans jealous, rewriting the 14th Amendment, and throwing massive amounts of illegal immigrants in jail before deporting them (with or without due process, a point that hasn’t been made clear in some quarters). If he does enter the race, expect the “amnesty” label to be slapped on him fairly quickly even though the points he raises on this issue are worthy of consideration.
H/T: Oliver Willis