WASHINGTON - At an influential conservative conference in Washington, U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann said conservatives should oppose the bipartisan immigration legislation currently under debate in the U.S. Senate as part of what appears to be a campaign by Bachmann and other like-minded members of Congress to scuttle the bill when it reaches the House.
Bachmann spoke at the annual Faith & Freedom Coalition conference in Washington, one of the primary political gatherings for Christian conservatives. The immigration debate at the conference was lively: U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida and former Gov. Jeb Bush of Florida were among those arguing in favor of granting a path to legal citizenship for those currently in the U.S. illegally.
While prefacing her remarks with the statement that "this is not an anti-immigrant speech," Bachmann spoke at length about what she described as the expensive cost of providing social services to immigrants and said that the average immigrant was too poorly educated to pay enough in taxes to cover those those costs.
"We need to be open to recognize what the cost is," said Bachmann.
A study published this week by the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development cast doubt on those claims, arguing that in most developed countries the fiscal impact of immigration is close to zero or even positive.
The legislation under debate in the Senate would eventually grant citizenship to as many as 11 million people while also requiring significant improvements to border security. Many conservative opponents of the bill do not believe the border security improvements will actually happen unless they precede the path to citizenship.
"It will be legalization first and then maybe we'll deal with border security down the road," said Bachmann.
Bachmann said low-skill Latino and African-American citizens would suffer the most from the immigration bill.
"They'll have seven more people with like skills that they'll have to compete for those jobs," said Bachmann.
In comments to conservative news outlets earlier this week, Bachmann's message about immigration was even less ambiguously opposed and more partisan.
She told the conservative news site WND that naturalized illegal immigrants would shut Republicans out of power:
“This is President Obama’s number one political agenda item because he knows we will never again have a Republican president, ever, if amnesty goes into effect. We will perpetually have a progressive, liberal president, probably a Democrat, and we will probably see the House of Representatives go into Democrat hands and the Senate will stay in Democrat hands.”
Bachmann, who announced she will leave Congress at the end of this term, joked as she got on stage that she was running again for president and then after a pause, she said, "of the Tim Tebow fan club," before pausing again to add, "but you never know."