The Rahm Emanuel and Grover Norquist Guide to Passing Immigration Reform

The Chicago mayor and antitax champion appeared together and discussed how to turn a GOP "no" vote on immigration reform into a "yes."

OK, quick, whose quotes are whose? Democratic Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel or Republican antitax champion Grover Norquist.

"There's nothing like the dedication of a child of an immigrant. They know in their DNA that they are here, they are lucky, and this better not get screwed up because their parents are going to kill you."

"I get a kick out of people asking whether we should be pro-immigrant: That's like asking the United States if McDonald's should sell hamburgers."

This could be the one issue where you would not be able to pull apart the position of Emanuel from Norquist (whose quotes are in that order): There's an easy answer to whether to take up immigration reform, according to both polar-opposite power players. And it's yes.

There were some shots, subtly, at one another at a forum hosted by The Atlantic at its Watergate office (incidentally, as a sister publication, National Journal is located there, too). Norquist was quick to remind the crowds that, historically, opposition to immigration has come from organized labor. He also said things like: "In Canada, that's the one in the north," directed at Emanuel.

"If you wouldn't tell anyone we were here together," Emanuel said toward the end, "it would not work back home for me, and it won't work for him in Washington. "

The Atlantic's Steve Clemons moderates a discussion between Grover Norquist and Rahm Emanuel. (Brian Resnick)

But their tone and dissatisfaction with the House Republican holdup of immigration reform both rang similar, with Norquist, actually, invoking the harsher criticism. He described the anti-immigration reform position as being "anti-people."

"The economics of this is so clear," Norquist said. "If you have more people moving into an area of economic growth, you actually get more growth. People are an asset. The argument that immigration depresses wages is the same argument against children" because children are people who can eventually enter the job market to compete with their parents. "They [Republicans against reform] tag immigrants with something else that they are focused on," he later said — like welfare. Those opposed to immigration reform say it will inflate the entitlement state. Norquist argues that the welfare system is indeed broken, but that's a separate issue from immigration. "Most of the people whose lives are damaged by welfare were born here," Norquist argued. But that's what makes changing minds difficult in this case. You have to reconcile each individual's pet fears.

Chicago is a sanctuary city for undocumented immigrants, and a sizable portion of the city's economy comes from its diverse ethnic neighborhoods. And just on Monday, the city announced a program to set up path to citizenship information centers at local libraries. But, according to the mayor, you can't pretend like stories of success in Chicago will resonate with middle America, and deep-red states like Kansas.

"You can't give them a national story, there are anecdotes and examples in Kansas's own history that you have to weave in a very local way," he said. "And I would not treat it disrespectfully. There's a story and narrative in Kansas that you have to go find."

According to Norquist, the House Republicans are staving off a vote because they fear a change in the tides. "Voices that are shrill, arguing for let's not have a vote are doing so because every day the Republican caucus is moving toward yes," he said, later adding, "it doesn't show up in the votes the way it shows up in the tongue wagging you can get in talk radio."

Emanuel followed: "The party has allowed itself to have a few voices to describe and define its position on immigration."

"Yeah," Norquist said.

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