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‘Historic Figure’

The Immigration Quarterback

She’s been called tough, effective, and irrepressible—and Cecilia Muñoz is all that and more. Eleanor Clift on the president’s point person on immigration and the historic coalition she’s assembled to push the House.

Her friends wondered why she didn’t quit when President Obama failed to push immigration reform in his first term, and now they’re wondering if Cecilia Muñoz, the president’s point person on immigration, has the political muscle to move bipartisan legislation to fix the broken system across a finish line blocked by House Republicans. An activist with the National Council of La Raza before joining the White House in 2009, Muñoz, who turns 51 on Saturday, got roughed up pretty badly in her community when she defended Obama’s crackdown on illegal immigrants, which resulted in a record number of deportations. Her friends are convinced she wouldn’t have signed on for a second term unless she had Obama’s unqualified backing and commitment.

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Barack Obama and Cecilia Muñoz meet with business leaders last month to talk about immigration reform. (Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty)

“Cecilia is an historic figure in the White House,” says former Interior secretary Ken Salazar. As director of the Domestic Policy Council, the first person of Hispanic heritage to achieve the position, she coordinates the president’s agenda on the full range of domestic policies, though she is identified most closely with immigration. “This is a hugely important issue for the president and a cadre of people who work in that White House, including Cecilia,” says Salazar. “She’s tough and effective in the space assigned to her.”

And that space doesn’t generally include blocking and tackling with Republicans, a task better left to Chief of Staff Denis McDonough, when it’s done at all. Obama has so little leverage with House Republicans that White House strategy for now is to let outside groups do the pressuring while giving the leadership room to maneuver, much the way the White House backed off when the Senate was working its will in crafting a bipartisan bill. “While they feel they have to say ‘no’ out loud now, they’re trying to get to yes,” says an official familiar with White House thinking.

No, Really!

Immigration Isn’t Dead

Sure, reform looks stalled in the House. But recent moves by a handful of key conservatives give reason to believe there’s still a chance. Patricia Murphy on the five deciders, from Paul Ryan to Trey Gowdy.

The conventional wisdom in Washington has it that immigration reform is dead and the Republican Party isn’t far behind.

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Paul Ryan is leading a small contingent in the House that might actually do something about immigration reform. (Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

Press reports focus on the (very real) civil war within the GOP, the latest rants from the die-hards and the crazies, and the various reasons, led chiefly by congressional redistricting and Tea Party pressure, that immigration reform will go down in flames. But considerably less attention is being paid to a handful of key conservatives, members of both the old and new guards in the House, whose recent moves on immigration are giving high-level staffers, lobbyists, and advocates reason to believe that the chances for reform are still alive in this Congress.

Driven by a combination of personal politics, religious beliefs, professional ambitions, and old-fashioned self-interest, these five Republicans are the dominoes at the front of the line for the House GOP, according to immigration watchers. As go these five, so goes the caucus. Call them “the Deciders.”

Anti-Amnesty Bust

The Rally That Melted

Whether it was the scorching heat or simple apathy, the D.C. anti-immigration march that was supposed to ‘shut down this town’ attracted barely 1,000 protesters Monday, reports Michelle Cottle.

As protests go, Monday’s anti-immigration march on the Capitol wasn’t exactly a blockbuster. Despite being cosponsored by Tea Party Community and heavily promoted by Tea Party groups, it wasn’t nearly so well attended as, say, the IRS protest last month. Tea Partier Greg Stafford, who came down from Akron, Ohio, for both gatherings, posited that maybe some people didn’t feel like making a return trip so soon. Still, Stafford expressed disappointment that his 50-seat bus had been only two-thirds full.

Immigration Rally at Freedom Plaza

The Black American Leadership Alliance holds an immigration rally at Freedom Plaza in Washington on July 15, 2013. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call, via Getty)

Elaine McIntosh and Isis Cox endured an even more disheartening ride from Buffalo. “Almost everyone who said they were coming canceled,” McIntosh told me, leaving her with only a half-dozen or so fellow travelers.

Asked about the number on her bus, Susan from Gonzalez, Texas, exclaimed, “Not enough!” and expressed dismay at the low overall turnout, which appeared to be in the neighborhood of 1,000 to perhaps 1,200.

Newsweek cover story author Terry Greene Sterling hosted a reader Q&A about 'Death on the Border': her feature on illegal immigration and the militarization of America's southern border.

As the immigration debate rages in Washington and Congress pushes for a $46.3 billion border-security surge, undocumented immigrants continue to perish in Arizona's harsh wilderness. In this week's Newsweek, Terry Greene Sterling tells the story of one mother's attempt to bring her family to America.

On Thursday, July 11th at 1pm et, the author hosted a Q&A. Read the questions and her responses below.

Flip-Flopper?

Tea Party Slams Rubio

The boosters who helped elect the Florida senator are denouncing his immigration heresy—backing ‘amnesty’ when he swore he wouldn’t—and vowing a primary challenge. But his national prospects look brighter, Patricia Murphy reports.

When Sen. Marco Rubio turned 42 on May 28, his Facebook page was swamped with more than 4,000 messages from people livid with him for championing the immigration-reform bill that was moving through the Senate. The notes variously called him a turncoat, a RINO, a traitor, or worse. Some birthday greetings suggested he celebrate in Mexico, Cuba, or hell, while one cheerfully said, “Happy Birthday! Now Resign!”

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Sen. Marco Rubio is being criticized more harshly than ever for his stance on immigration. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

But the real backlash for Rubio came a month later, after he voted for the Senate immigration-reform bill. Senators headed home for the weeklong July 4 recess, or in Rubio’s case, a week of conservative blowback and hometown heartache, including a Tea Party protest in front of his Miami office.

“It was like a suicide mission that has served no purpose that we can tell,” said Everett Wilkinson, chairman of the Florida-based National Liberty Federation, of Rubio’s lead role on immigration reform. “The feedback I’ve received is that people are extremely upset with Marco. Tea Party members who were active with us and helped get Marco elected—several have said they’re no longer going to support him.”

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House GOP Immigration Insanity

Immigration reform is on a glide path out of the Senate, reports Michelle Cottle, but may yet crash in the House.

How do you expect to spend your July 10? In staff meetings? Kicking it at the beach? Digging out from the Fourth of July holiday backlog?

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House Speaker John Boehner and his colleagues have a lot of convincing to do. (J. Scott Applewhite/AP)

Whatever your plans, they’re likely to be way more fun than the way John Boehner and his fellow House majority leaders anticipate passing their day: namely, listening to their colleagues rant and rage about immigration at a specially organized conference gripe session on the topic.

The closed-door powwow promises to be an electrifying exercise in spleen venting, thrust upon them by their Senate brethren. At some point in the next day or two, the upper chamber is expected to pass its sprawling, blood-sweat-and-tears-drenched overhaul of our FUBAR immigration system. In the run-up to voting, Hill watchers have been aflutter over whether the bill can pull enough Republican support to hit 70 “yeas”—maybe even 71! A procedural test vote Monday topped out at a mildly disappointing 67 (including 15 R’s). But the last-minute horse trading continues, and reform advocates remain optimistic that the final tally will be big and bipartisan enough to goose the House into passing something similarly sweeping.

Resolved

DOMA’s Immigration Bonus

The Supreme Court decision has one immediate effect: now Congress won’t have to weigh in on same-sex couples’ immigration benefits.

When the Supreme Court struck down a key portion of the Defense of Marriage Act on Wednesday, it also solved one of the thorniest dilemmas facing Congress: whether and how to give same-sex couples access to immigration benefits.

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Gay marriage and immigration are inextricably intertwined. (David McNew/Getty Images)

Before the Supreme Court acted, roughly 36,000 American citizens were specifically barred from applying for green cards for their same-sex spouses. But following the ruling, Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano confirmed that any legally valid marriage of a U.S. citizen would be recognized for immigration benefits. If immigration reform passes Congress, same-sex couples will automatically be covered by the new law without any extra debate or amendments.

“I think there is bipartisan relief today that the court resolved the issue,” says Steve Ralls, spokesman for Immigration Equality, a group advocating for binational same-sex couples. “I have no doubt that both Democratic and Republican senators are glad the court fixed this issue before the Senate had to take another vote on it.”

Tea Party vs. Immigration

Is This Threat for Real?

The Tea Party’s biggest group is warning that it could attack Republicans who vote for the immigration-reform bill with 2014 primary challenges. But does the movement still have its old firepower? David Freedlander reports.

The nation’s largest Tea Party group announced Tuesday morning that any Republican who votes in favor of immigration reform is in danger of facing a primary challenge in 2014.

“Like Obamacare, this bill is too massive, offers special-interest kickbacks and perks, has no measurable or enforceable border security. No one has had time to read what’s in it, and the final Senate vote will likely happen under cover of darkness,” said Jenny Beth Martin, national coordinator for Tea Party Patriots. “Did the Senate learn nothing from the 2010 shellacking?”

Boehners Political Dance

Tea Party activists attend a rally on the grounds of the Capitol in Washington, D.C., on June 19. (J. Scott Applewhite/AP)

But the big question as the 2014 primary season approaches is whether the Tea Party still has the old firepower. Although the movement has sent a host of conservative Republicans to Congress, it did so mostly by defeating establishment Republicans for open seats in primaries, and in the process, handed a handful of victories to Democrats in seats that should have stayed in Republican hands.

Fault Lines

Heritage Widens Immigration Split

Jim DeMint’s new hard-right outfit is posing a threat to Republicans considering a ‘yes’ on immigration-reform legislation. Eleanor Clift on the party’s escalating internal rift.

The think tank that came of age as President Reagan’s policy shop back when amnesty wasn’t a dirty word is now leading the conservative opposition against immigration reform. Heritage Action, the newly created political arm of the Heritage Foundation, has abandoned the venerable organization’s scholarly gentility to plunge into the task at hand, which is making sure the immigration bill currently before Congress fails.

Immigration Opponents

Jim DeMint, the president of the Heritage Foundation, during a news conference on immigration reform May 6. Heritage Action, the new political arm of the foundation, is working to defeat the immigration bill currently before Congress. (Evan Vucci/AP)

“They speak to a particular constituency, and they’re good at what they do in creating angst among Republicans because they speak to the people who can primary them,” says John Feehery, a former top GOP leadership aide. “So many members are risk-averse and they don’t want a hard-right challenge.”

Heritage’s main argument against the legalization of undocumented immigrants is its cost, and the belief that immigrants would drain social-service programs without kicking in enough taxes to the Treasury because they are largely uneducated and hold low-level jobs. “The structure of our welfare and entitlement system leads to amnesty costing taxpayers a lot of money,” Dan Holler with Heritage Action told The Daily Beast just hours before the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office made public its conclusion that the Senate’s bipartisan immigration-reform bill would reduce the deficit over the next 10 years by $197 billion, and by about $700 billion over the following decade.

By the Numbers

The CBO Case for Immigration

The nonpartisan number-crunchers point to the obvious: more working-age Americans means more jobs and more people paying taxes.

Give me your tired, your poor. Your productive, hardworking taxpayers.

That’s not quite how the lines from the Emma Lazarus poem on the Statue of Liberty go. But it’s an accurate assessment of the economic impact of immigration.

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Protesters listen to a speech during an immigration-reform demonstration on April 10 in San Francisco. (Justin Sullivan/Getty)

Anti-immigrant politicians frequently cite the prospective high cost of immigrants—they require social services, get benefits, have children who need to be educated—as a reason to maintain the status quo or to boost restrictions.

Did you hear about how the proposed immigration reform bill will create, in the words of the headline writers at Wired, a "Biometric Database of All Adult Americans"?

The idea of the government creating a massive biometric database for virtually all adult Americans is indeed terrifying, and if the story was true, would be cause for genuine outrage.

Fortunately, Wired's assertion is false. Here are the facts:

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SAEED KHAN/AFP/Getty Images

The Heritage Foundation this week released a study estimating that the Senate immigration bill will cost taxpayers $6 trillion over the next 50 years, the expected life cycle of the persons legalized by the path to citizenship.

The study has touched off a tremendous controversy - and what's most notable about the onslaught is how brazenly it ignores the study's contents.

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John Moore/Getty Images

The New York Times today, for example, has a big story impeaching the credibility of one of the study's co-authors, Jason Richwine.

Racially Charged

The Immigrant IQ Trap

The Heritage Foundation is distancing itself from an author of its anti-immigration report, Jason Richwine, who says immigrants have lower IQs than ‘white natives.’ But its report backs him up, says Jamelle Bouie.

To the conservative Heritage Foundation, comprehensive immigration reform is an epic boondoggle. To wit, in a report released earlier this week, Heritage puts the cost of immigration reform at a whopping $6.3 trillion. That’s nearly half the size of the United States economy.

Immigrants

A migrant farm worker from Mexico harvests vegetables at the Grant Family Farm on September 3, 2010 in Wellington, Colorado. (John Moore/Getty)

But there’s a problem. To come to this number, Heritage assumes that unauthorized immigrants will claim the full array of federal benefits as soon as they become citizens. As Heritage president Jim DeMint explained on ABC News’ This Week, “We just want Congress, for once, to count the cost of a bill. They’re notorious for underestimating the cost and not understanding the consequences.”

Not only does Heritage assume a world where every unauthorized immigrant becomes a citizen, but it assumes one where upward mobility has disappeared—every immigrant is taking more in benefits than paying in taxes—and one where there are no economic gains from legalizing and integrating immigrants.

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Alex Wong/Getty Images

In a modern social insurance state, all of us are both contributors and beneficiaries.

We pay taxes. We receive schooling, Medicare, and Social Security. We are eligible for Medicaid, food stamps, unemployment insurance, low-income housing vouchers, and so on and on.

When the United States chooses to admit somebody as a resident, it accepts a fiscal bargain. The newcomer promises to contribute; the newcomer is entitled to receive.

How will that bargain balance?

Not Impossible

The Senate's Immigration Deal

So the Gang of Eight in the Senate has a deal on immigration. The border security issue, which conservatives want, is handled thusly:

During the first decade after passage, the bill sets ambitious goals for border authorities — including continuous surveillance of 100 percent of the United States border and 90 percent effectiveness of enforcement in several high-risk sectors — and for other workplace and visa enforcement measures. It provides at least $3 billion for Homeland Security officials to meet those goals during the first five years, with a possibility of additional financing.

The bill includes provisions, or “triggers,” during that decade that allow Congress at different points to ensure the enforcement goals are being met.

That sounds to me like an easy way out. D'oh, triggers not being met, kill the rest of the bill! But wait:

What They're Saying

Up-to-the-minute immigration-related tweets from members of Congress.

Road to Reform

Immigration Isn’t Dead

Immigration Isn’t Dead

Reform looks stalled in the House, but five Republicans may be able to save it. Patricia Murphy reports.

Donors Dominate

The Immigration Hustle

Anti-Amnesty Bust

The Rally That Melted

Taking Sides

Where Republican Politicians and Pundits Stand

Where Republican Politicians and Pundits Stand

Conservatives are divided on the immigration reform. Roll over to see who’s said what.

Mitch Loses His Iron Grip on GOP

Mitch Loses His Iron Grip on GOP

After calling ‘bullshit’ on McConnell, Bob Corker said he was ‘glad that that occurred.’ Michael Tomasky on the minority leader’s restless caucus.

Reader Q&A: Death on the Border