I mentioned earlier that Ron DeSantis’s new book The Courage To Be Free talked about the 2013 Amnesty Push, and shows that DeSantis also understands LEGAL immigration.
This is an excerpt, with links added by me. The Gang of Eight immigration bill was called that because it was sponsored by four democrat and four republican senators.
During my first year in Congress, the divide between the DC GOP and our Republican voters back home was on stark display on the issue of immigration. The Republican intelligentsia inside the Beltway believed as an article of faith that, to win national elections, Republicans needed to embrace amnesty for illegal aliens. GOP insiders believed—wrongly—that Mitt Romney’s lackluster performance with Hispanic voters against Barack Obama during the 2012 election was because he was too tough on immigration. But Romney underperformed with blue-collar voters of all backgrounds, not just among Hispanic voters, and Hispanic Americans consistently rank other issues, such as education, the economy, and crime, as far more important to them than immigration. In fact, I’ve found that most Hispanics support robust border and immigration enforcement measures and are not terribly sympathetic to those who enter the United States illegally.
DC Republicans also supported major expansions of immigration to serve corporate interests, particularly in ways that would facilitate more cheap labor. The effect that such policies might have on the wages of American workers did not seem to be of much concern—a classic example of Beltway Republicans putting Americans last.
The perceived political incentive for amnesty combined with the corporate desire for cheap labor led to the so-called Gang of Eight immigration bill—which represented the largest amnesty in American history and green-lighted a massive expansion of future immigration.
The Gang of Eight bill passed the US Senate in June 2013, with fourteen Republicans joining all Democrats, and then landed in the US House. This legislation, the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act, was structurally similar to the Immigration Reform and Control Act signed by President Reagan in 1986. That legislation contained a far-reaching amnesty for illegal aliens, with the promise, which was important to Reagan, of enhanced border security and immigration enforcement. Predictably, in the usual DC way, the amnesty was implemented, but the border security and interior enforcement never materialized, which fueled future illegal migration.
The Gang of Eight bill represented a rehash of this failed amnesty. Indeed, there was every reason to think that the results would be the same. For those advocating this massive amnesty, the similarity to the 1986 amnesty was a feature, not a bug: they did not, in fact, want a secure border or robust interior enforcement.
The media generated a lot of polling with loaded questions so that they could say the Gang of Eight amnesty law was wildly popular. But when less partisan organizations polled individual aspects of the legislation, it was clear that major provisions of the bill were unpopular. Republican base voters overwhelmingly opposed the bill by the time it landed in the House.
Those of us who opposed the Gang of Eight amnesty recognized that if the bill were put on the House floor for a vote, it would likely pass with a minority of Republican members combining with nearly every Democrat to reach a majority vote. It was an unwritten rule of the House that passing major legislation without majority support in the majority party represented political malpractice. With Republicans in the majority, GOP insiders, as well as the media and corporate America, put intense pressure on rank-and-file members. We knew we had a fight on our hands.
I was on the House Judiciary Committee at the time and was one of the members who opposed the Gang of Eight amnesty legislation. We worked hard on the committee to expose the many flaws with the Gang of Eight bill. Because there was a broad coalition of interest groups supporting the Gang of Eight, the committee passed a series of reforms to legal immigration as stand-alone measures—but no amnesty—as a way of breaking up support for the Gang of Eight bill. I supported this as a strategic matter even though some of the policy in the bill left much to be desired. This strategy was somewhat effective, as it slowed down the momentum for the Gang of Eight bill.
The House GOP leadership wanted to pass the Gang of Eight bill, but understood the political peril they would face from the conservative grass roots. House Speaker John Boehner would likely have lost his speakership had he put the Gang of Eight bill on the floor of the House. Majority leader Eric Cantor was taking a beating back in his district and on talk radio for his apparent support for amnesty for illegal immigrants.
By the spring of 2014, the Gang of Eight legislation was on life support. The final nail in the coffin came in June when an upstart college professor named Dave Brat, with the help of conservative talk radio star Laura Ingraham, defeated majority leader Cantor in the Republican primary. For the second-most-powerful member of the House to lose a primary was a political earthquake inside the Beltway. Brat was outspent by 40 to 1, but he won 56 to 44 percent because he hammered Cantor on amnesty. This was the first time a sitting House majority leader was ever defeated in a primary. The Republican base did not like seeing what was happening in the DC swamp and voted for Brat to send a message. It worked.
The Gang of Eight bill effectively died on June 10, 2014, the night of Cantor’s defeat.
Eric Cantor’s defeat was a prelude to the nomination of Donald Trump two years later. Of all the issues on which GOP leaders had ignored their voters, on no issue did they do so more consistently and more flagrantly than on the issue of immigration. From playing footsie with mass amnesty to advocating for large expansions of immigration levels, the DC Republican establishment was woefully out of touch with the people who voted them into office in the first place.