Sen. Jon Kyl has put his conservative credentials on the line to take what some call a “lead” Republican role in negotiating a deal on immigration reform.
And the Arizona Republican is getting hit from the left and the right for his troubles.
U.S. Rep. Raúl Grijalva, D-Ariz., worried Tuesday morning that Kyl will pull an immigration reform bill far enough to the right that Grijalva couldn’t support it.
By Tuesday afternoon, Kyl was getting hit by the right. The Federation for American Immigration Reform, favoring a crackdown on illegal immigrants, circulated a letter signed by more than 100 Arizona Republicans asking Kyl to cease and desist.
State Rep. Russell Pearce, R-Mesa, wrote the letter, which reminded Kyl that he said during his 2006 campaign that he opposed giving illegal immigrants any sort of path to citizenship.
“We know you understand how important it is to protect and preserve American national interests,” wrote Pearce, a leader of Arizona’s anti-illegal immigration movement. “Thus, it is with great concern that we observe your integral role in crafting an amnesty plan in concert with the Bush administration. We urge you to abandon these efforts.”
Federation spokesman Ira Mehlman said the Bush administration asked Kyl to lead the negotiations because of his conservative credentials and history of voting for border security.
“His position seems to be an about-face from everything he said during the campaign,” Mehlman said.
Kyl’s support can insulate a bill against attacks that it would be too liberal because of the senator’s conservative credentials, Mehlman said.
The price for getting Kyl to go along may be the loss of liberals such as Grijalva who might balk at a bill ruling out a path to citizenship for those immigrants already here.
“If it starts going too far and starts to abandon the core principles, I can’t support it,” said Grijalva, who counts at least 15 Democrats jumping ship on immigration reform.