Barbour lobbied for mini-amnesty? Update: Barbour issues denial

posted at 10:55 am on February 14, 2011 by Ed Morrissey

Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour has been refreshingly candid about his career as a lobbyist as he gears up for a run at the Republican presidential nomination, given the disfavor into which lobbying has fallen with voters.  Time Magazine’s latest revelation may test that approach to its limits within the conservative sphere of the party.  Michael Scherer reports that Barbour lobbied for a “mini-amnesty” during the early years of the George W. Bush administration, right after 9/11:

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 practice, the provision generally helped out undocumented family members of legal immigrants or undocumented immigrants who were eligible for visas based upon certain job skills. Without the provision in place, undocumented immigrants who received legal papers had to return to their country of origin, for three or 10 years, before returning to the U.S. The Congressional Research Service estimated that an extension would put benefit about 300,000 undocumented immigrants.

Barbour has actually been rather consistent about his support for normalization.  He spoke about it last year in the context of the recovery from Hurricane Katrina, telling the Hoover Institute that the recovery couldn’t have succeeded without illegal workers:

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.

Time may have done Barbour a favor by getting this out now, although clearly it wasn’t in Barbour’s plans to do so.  Scherer framed this as the lobbying that Barbour omitted from his Fox News Sunday interview.  As with most damaging revelations on policy or personal lives, early exposure allows for damage control and the opportunity for recovery.

However, Barbour’s framing of the problem may do even more damage than the lobbying for the mini-amnesty.  Few people actually argue for attempting to round up 14 million people and forcibly deporting them.  The mainstream conservative viewpoint focuses on border security and visa reform first above all other changes or reforms.  By securing both the southern and the northern border and creating a visa system that tracks recipients and flags expirations in real time, we can stop the inflow; by enforcing immigration and employment law, we can accelerate the outflow.  The economic downturn and state-based enforcement has proven that illegal immigrants respond to enforcement and economic pressure without mass detention and deportations.

Once we have secured the nation, which Congress has shamefully failed to do in the nine-plus years since 9/11, then we can debate how best to address the smaller number of those who remain, most likely the illegal immigrants who have been in the US for years.  That problem will be easier to solve, with the added benefit of not incentivizing more illegal immigration as a result.

Perhaps Barbour might adopt this as a new direction, or perhaps he will remain consistent on his position.  At any rate, it’s now out in the open for debate.

Update: Haley Barbour released this statement in response:

“One reason I’ve been successful as Governor is that I’m plain-spoken and use common sense. I tell people what I think, not what I think they want to hear.

“Before there can be immigration reform, we must secure our borders. Only after that can any reforms be achieved, and those can’t include amnesty.

“Everybody knows we are not going to put ten or twelve million people in jail and deport them. Once the border is secure, we should develop a responsible guest-worker program and it can’t include amnesty.”

Barbour’s press team released a statement that categorically denies working on the mini-amnesty: “In their work on immigration issues, BGR never advocated amnesty for illegal aliens.”


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Not according to NumbersUSA, which gives both candidates a D- on the issue.

rightwingyahooo on February 14, 2011 at 5:5

NumbersUSA is apparently ignoring the fact that Barbour filed a friend of the court brief on behalf of Obama’s administration while Palin did not — if that’s what you’re getting at. I don’t put too much stock in those advocacy group grades/ratings on either side of the aisle.

gryphon202 on February 14, 2011 at 6:52 PM

if that’s what you’re getting at. I don’t put too much stock in those advocacy group grades/ratings on either side of the aisle.

gryphon202 on February 14, 2011 at 6:52 PM

Not at all what I’m getting at. Im saying NumbersUSA can easily recognize that the end result of both immigration plans are roughly the same, and equally awful and injurious to our country.

I have to say, ever since Palin came on the national scene, I’ve hated the left and the media for characterizing her as a lightweight.

This is one area is sticks. You cannot have the American people’s best interests at heart, or be much of a thinker, or planner, while pushing as horrible an immigration plan as these Rs, including Palin, are pushing.

You look down the road 10 years, and we’re not in control of our country any more.

Mind boggling that people don’t see it,or that they do until their candidate pushes the same idea, at which time they suddenly forget the meaning of words in the English language.

rightwingyahooo on February 14, 2011 at 8:17 PM

Barbour is a strong possibilty.

Maybe he’s the one… I’ve thought that before and changed my mind about him a couple of times.

A President from Mississippi? That’s got to be a first.

petunia on February 15, 2011 at 2:21 AM

Funny how the supporters of just one candidate go to all the threads and try to sabotage support for anyone else. Hmmm desperation.

petunia on February 15, 2011 at 2:25 AM

The MS House of Rep just passed an Arizona style immigration measure recently. The state Senate has not taken it up yet, but if they do pass it, will Haley sign it?
This is not the biggest problem that Haley will have in a national election, believe me.

d1carter on February 14, 2011 at 11:21 AM

He signed the MS version of E-Verify… the issue is going to be whether or not the two houses of the MS legislature get their bills unified into one version before Barbour’s term ends (the top candidate expected to win the next election is apparently tougher than Barbour was on illegal immigration, so Barbour may be happy to let it fall to him).

DaSaintFan on February 15, 2011 at 3:22 AM

Make no mistake, Barbour is a prime leader of the old-gaurd, GOP Establishment. But even he can win if he’ll moderate and say the right things: 1) jobs 2) stop illegal immigration. But don’t hold your breath. DD

Darvin Dowdy on February 15, 2011 at 7:37 AM

I think he is really John McCain in a fat suit with a Southern accent. This guy should not even get started out of the gate. He, Jeb Bush, and Romney need to quit spinning there crap and let the real conservatives discuss the issues.

livermush on February 15, 2011 at 10:25 AM

This will be “Haley Barbour, who?” ere long.

SurferDoc on February 15, 2011 at 11:32 AM

Mind boggling that people don’t see it,or that they do until their candidate pushes the same idea, at which time they suddenly forget the meaning of words in the English language.

rightwingyahooo on February 14, 2011 at 8:17 PM

Yeah, on that we agree…and that’s one reason that single-issue voters put me off so much.

gryphon202 on February 15, 2011 at 4:33 PM

Yeah, on that we agree…and that’s one reason that single-issue voters put me off so much.

gryphon202 on February 15, 2011 at 4:33 PM

Get over yourself, some issues are big enough to wreck America all by themselves, and amnesty is the one.

Anything else, no matter how socialist and horrible, can be undone in time.

Not amnesty. You’re gonna be stuck in Atzlan, and you’ll have nothing to say about it, or do.

Wake up.

rightwingyahooo on February 15, 2011 at 7:34 PM

I’m from NJ and my favorites possible candidates are Jindal, Barbour and Palin (in that order.) Love the 3 of them. I like what I hear about Mike Pence and Mitch Daniels, but need to learn more about them. I don’t think Bachman, Santorum or DeMint will get the nomination this year, even though I love them and would vote for them in a heartbeat if I thought they could win the nomination. The rest are OK on this or that issue, some I like, some I can’t stand, some are unelectable and so many are RINOs (including my own Governor Chris Christie, who is good only on a couple issues. But I’m grateful for that.)

I don’t think Jindal is running. I’m not sure if Palin can overcome the unfair and unnecessary baggage that they have piled up against her. (She is definitely electable if Republicans stand united against those who tarnish her.)

So I might be left with Barbour and possibly Pence or Daniels. Make no mistake, Barbour is not a RINO. And he is totally likeable, electable, effective, intelligent and conservative. I liked him even before he was governor and love him after his great record as Governor, especially the way he ran his state’s hurricane recovery.

I’m against amnesty and what Barbour said is just common sense. Close the borders first. Really close them. We aren’t going to jail and deport all the current illegals. That will never happen and everyone here knows that. Set up a guest worker program for a select number in states where they want some to work. Deport the ones who aren’t working or are criminals. And identify illegals like they are trying to do in Arizona and make sure they are not entitled to all the goodies that citizens get. We can’t deport them all, but they can’t stay without paying a price. They can’t be psuedo-citizens.

Elisa on February 15, 2011 at 10:58 PM

You are an utter lunatic, and if you get your way, the USA will resemble Mexico very closely, very soon.

I know you don’t care about that, but some of us do, and you are our enemy, just like the left is our enemy.

rightwingyahooo on February 14, 2011 at 1:56 PM

When all else fails, go ad hominem. Understood.

If I’m your enemy, then Abraham Lincoln is too. Ok, I stand with him against you.

unclesmrgol on February 16, 2011 at 1:56 AM

They have a choice, they can stay home.

rightwingyahooo on February 14, 2011 at 2:04 PM

….or they can come here. I welcome them, as long as they otherwise follow our laws.

unclesmrgol on February 16, 2011 at 1:57 AM

The fourteenth amendment being used to apply the constitution to non-citizens is an unconstitutional gloss in the same vein of Marbury vs. Madison.

gryphon202 on February 14, 2011 at 2:11 PM

Ok, give your meaning of the word “persons” in the 14th Amendment, and explain further why that word is used in place of the word “citizens”. I’ve got my position (Yick Wo v. Hopkins) which I’ve stated, and which the Court has held to be valid.

unclesmrgol on February 16, 2011 at 2:10 AM

Huh? I see dozens of these “welfare mentality” people looking for work over at the Home Depot every day?

As for burglars, that’s your characterization of the standard illegal immigrant, not mine. They are part of “the people” as defined in the Constitution, and are subject to all of its rights and all of its obligations while they are here.

If they come across the border without permission, fine to deport them — although I’m working to make sure that the ones I classed in my previous comment have a path to citizenship. It was an evil day when we started down the road to the immigration laws we have, for they are rooted in racism and xenophobia. Just as the Chinese suffered under those laws, so do the Mexicans now.

unclesmrgol on February 14, 2011 at 1:32 PM

That’s just silly. All countries have immigrations laws and most are more stringent than ours. What are you saying, we should not have any immigration laws? Everyone should just be welcome and enter at will?

And, the illegals already here may be hard workers. But the vast majority are not educated or skilled workers. So, they can expect minimum wage at best. Which means they are going to be dependent on entitlements and welfare.

And, if we legalize them, the jobs they have now will likely go to the next wave of immigrants or there will be pressure to raise wages, which means that citizens will likely take those jobs – all leaving the newly legalized illegals without work and even more dependent on entitlement programs.

And, this does not even address teh very high percentage of true criminals in this illegal population.

So, what exactly is the benefit to the U.S.A. of granting amnesty to all of these illegals? And, how exactly is rewarding people coming into america illegally going to prevent or slow the influx of future illegals?

There is simply no logic to the amnesty position. Any argument that it will somehow benefit the U.S. is ridiculous. Claiming we have some kind of moral obligation is likewise illogical.

And, simply securing teh border and enforcing employment laws and deporting those illegals we catch (i.e., get rid of sanctuary cities, cut off any entitlements to illegals), the pressure on many illegals will increase to where they will migrate out of teh U.S. then in 5 years or 10 years those who remained, b/c they were truly settled and had jobs, etc., we can talk about legalizing.

And, if the meantime we find that we really “need” 1 million illegals to come into the U.S. every year to work, we can change immigration laws to allow for that.

But this idea that we should just legalize everyone here right now before first addressing the vast problems we have with illegal immigration and our current illegal immigrants, is just idiotic.

We have no moral or ethical obligation to anyone who came to america illegally. I understand why they came here, but that is on them. They made choices, they knew the risks. They knew they were coming illegally and knew they could be deported, or perhaps couldn’t find work, or worse.

And any idea that if we pass an amnesty now hispanics will suddenly start voting republican is belied by historical facts and trends. Reagan passed an amnesty, so under that flawed theory the GOP would already receive a majority of the hispanic vote.

So, there is no benefit to the U.S. in passing an amnesty and no benefit to the GOP or conservatism in passing an amnesty. And, there is no moral or ethical case to be made for passing an amnesty.

What, exactly, is the alleged case for passing the amnesty? It is the “right thing” to do? For who? Why?

Monkeytoe on February 16, 2011 at 8:39 AM

What, exactly, is the alleged case for passing the amnesty? It is the “right thing” to do? For who? Why?

Monkeytoe on February 16, 2011 at 8:39 AM

a) They are here, they are having children, and they are contributing to our society.
b) For us and for them.
c) Because then they get to be fully functioning members of our society, rather than being an underclass.

unclesmrgol on February 27, 2011 at 3:06 AM

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