But do conservative thought leaders want to engage with the issue of immigration? At the very least, Grover Norquist does. He believes that the economic argument for higher levels of immigration should sound familiar to conservatives.
"I work with all of the nice Republicans in the House and Senate to encourage them to do what Reagan did. This is the Reagan Republican deal; this is not compromise, this is not moving to the left. This is mobility of labor, mobility of capital -- this is what they teach you in in Hayekian economics," he said.
Norquist expressed little tolerance for those who argue that immigration would hurt American workers, even taking a moment for a political-philosophy throw down against Thomas Malthus, the 19th century philosopher who argued that a growing population will necessarily outpace the availability of resources like food and water.
"The argument that immigration depresses wages is the argument of children. People who talk that way are Malthusians, and I think we have a general consensus that Malthus was a little off in his predictions. But they're also anti-people. How do you argue with people who think that people are the problem? A freer economy at all levels, including the mobility of labor, will make the country stronger, the economy stronger -- [it] will make everybody better off," he said.
This exchange may give the impression of bipartisan consensus in Washington, at least in terms of ideology. Emanuel has been a longtime Democratic strategist, while Norquist is a self-described Republican known for advocating tax cuts and Reagan-era economics. Both argued that Republican principles align with reform efforts: Creating pathways to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, expanding legal limits on who can enter the country, and improving border security. But is there a greater ideological divide at work in the debate about reform?
In her recent Atlantic article, Molly Ball argues that the debate hinges on something else: "It's about whether the pragmatists can seize the reins of the Republican Party, or whether the angry, oppositionist, populist strain retains control." Whether or not you agree with her characterization of immigration reform opponents, it seems that only certain Republicans are ideologically aligned on the issue. For example, Iowa Republican Steve King argues that pathways to citizenship are a form of "amnesty" for people who have broken the law. As he reportedly said earlier this month, "I'm not going to support any kind of legalization because legalization is amnesty, is eventual citizenship if not instantaneous citizenship, and if we do that we get more law breakers." Others, like Texas Republican Randy Weber, think allowing more legal immigration obscures the more important issue, which is border security. With this group, blessings from conservative thought leaders and media may not be enough to ensure successful passage of legislation in the House.