- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Immigrants’ List, a political action committee dedicated to promoting a generous immigration system in the U.S., is clear in its chief goal this election season: namely, beating Rep. Steve King, Iowa Republican.

That’s the headline on many of its fundraising solicitations, which are part of an ongoing experiment by those on both sides of the immigration issue to see whether it is a hot enough political subject to sway congressional races.

Polling suggests the issue’s impact could be increasing, but it’s the folks on Mr. King’s side of the debate who appear to have the upper hand. A survey released Wednesday by the Polling Co. Inc. found strong support for encouraging illegal immigrants to go back to their home countries, and even for reducing overall levels of legal immigration, the expansion of which has long been a bipartisan priority shared by the business community.

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“The children-at-the-border-crisis has brought into sharp relief public opinion about immigration. Out of sight, out of mind is over,” Kellyanne Conway, the pollster, said in a memo outlining the key findings.

Immigrants’ List is one of a handful of PACs dedicated to hashing out the immigration issue on the electoral battleground in recent years.

Other PACs include Republicans for Immigration Reform, which has drawn donations from some Bush administration Cabinet secretaries, and the Immigration Reform Fund, launched by Rep. Luis V. Gutierrez, Illinois Democrat, who uses the PAC to fund his efforts to push for a broad immigration reform bill to pass Congress.

Then on the other side of the issue is Americans for Legal Immigration PAC, or ALIPAC, run by William Gheen, a North Carolina man who has gained prominence for campaigns such as the one this year to send “gently used” underwear to President Obama and House Speaker John A. Boehner to protest government spending to house the surge of illegal immigrants this year.

“This will be the first election cycle in the 10 years I’ve been doing this that illegal immigration has been the definitive top issue of the cycle,” Mr. Gheen said. “So we may get a clearer view of what illegal immigration can do than in any other cycle.”

Analysts have debated immigration’s effects on past elections. The most recent was the 2012 presidential election, when both Democrats and the Republican National Committee concluded that a stern stance hurt GOP nominee Mitt Romney by pushing Hispanic voters into Mr. Obama’s corner.

But congressional elections have been tougher to calculate.

“I think it’s an issue. I think in some places people feel strongly about it. I think Hispanics overall feel very strongly about the issue,” said Ira Kurzban, a prominent immigration lawyer who is treasurer for Immigrants’ List. “I think it’s an issue Hispanics think about when they vote because it affects them directly, very often.”

He started his group with fellow immigration lawyers, who remain the biggest donors, and he said that brings a special perspective.

“We as immigration lawyers, who not only know about the law, but know about the effects because we see them with people in our offices every day, decided to look at this from a long-term perspective,” he said. “How do you get people elected who are going to look at these issues in a serious way and not just have a knee-jerk anti-immigrant reaction?”

There’s little doubt who his group sees as the chief “knee-jerk” reactor: In the past six years, the group has spent more than half of the money it’s dedicated to elections trying to unseat Mr. King.

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