New York Rep. Elise Stefanik is the GOP’s newest star. Her aggressive questioning of witnesses during last month’s impeachment hearings made her a national figure and a prominent White House ally. Many Trump supporters see Stefanik as a hero, but immigration patriots should be skeptical. The New York Republican consistently votes against patriotic immigration reform. Her sudden celebrity signifies a serious problem with Trumpism—apparent loyalty to the president matters far more than America First. But that won’t build a movement, and will permit cheap-labor enthusiasts to co-opt Trumpism for their own corrupt ends.
Let’s give credit where it’s due: Stefanik did do a number on the Democrats’ witnesses [Yovanovitch Admits Being Prepped By Obama Admin On Hunter Biden & Burisma During Confirmation, GOP War Room, Nov. 15, 2019]. Trump called her a “a new Republican star,” House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy praised her political skills, and other major figures want to see her in the leadership. At the same time, celebrities and prominent liberals are donating heavily to Stefanik’s Democratic opponent, further cementing her importance [Rising GOP star thrust into spotlight with Trump defense, by Juliegrace Brufke and Brett Samuels, The Hill, November 25, 2019].
Stefanik’s star power relies on the 35-year-old’s youth and sex. Few young women are in the GOP caucus and the party is desperate (foolishly, ask Ann Coulter) to have its own Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
And unlike AOC, Stefanik has brains. She’s a Harvard grad. (Perhaps significantly, she was reportedly a friend of Peter Buttigieg there—Pete Buttigieg and Elise Stefanik unlikely friends from Harvard days, by Jon Levine, November 30, 2019 ).
Yet Stefanik’s rise exposes the problem with the top shelf of the GOP on Capitol Hill: If the party fully embraced immigration patriotism, Stefanik’s immigration agenda would exclude her from leadership. She holds a dismal D career rating from NumbersUSA. (She was first elected in 2014). This term she rated a mediocre C. The low ratings are fully warranted, as her long history open-borders statements and legislation demonstrate:
- This year, Stefanik co-sponsored the “Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrants Act,” the deceptively-named green card giveaway to India. The bill would scrap country caps and allow the tech industry to hire more foreign workers. Indians would get at least 75 percent of all employment-based visas.
- She voted against Trump’s national emergency declaration that provided essential funding for border security [ICYMI: Putting the Nation First: Stefanik Votes To Block Trump’s National Emergency Declaration, March 4, 2019, Stefanik.House.Gov]. She claimed the vote put “the nation first.”
- In 2018, she campaigned on amnesty for illegal aliens who arrived as minors (DREAMers) and ending family separation, opposed reductions in refugee resettlement and wants Congress to have authority over the matter [Stefanik balked on border bills, by Abraham Kenmore, NNY360, October 4, 2018].
- She co-sponsored an Amnesty bill that would have given a pittance for border security in exchange for a DREAMer amnesty and restrictions on immigration enforcement [Stefanik announces support for compromise immigration bill, June 20, 2018, Stefanik.House.Gov]. Trump’s detention policies, she said, were “appalling.”
- She also backed a Democratic “discharge petition” that would’ve forced the House to vote for Amnesty [Stefanik Signs DACA Discharge Petition, May 9, 2018].
- She wants an expanded guest worker visa program that allows the agriculture industry to employ more foreign labor for a longer period of time [Stefanik backs bill on guest worker visas, Abraham Kenmore, Watertown Daily Times, July 23, 2018].
- She co-sponsored a bill to increase the number of green cards for Afghan refugees.
- She wants to make it easier to cross the U.S-Canada border [Bill to simplify border crossing passes U.S. Congress, by Alexander Panetta, The Canadian Press, December, 10, 2016]. This is a problem because illegal immigration via Canada is increasing.
- She voted against the Republicans’ best compromise on the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. The plan, proposed by then-Virginia Rep. Bob Goodlatte, would have given legal status to a limited number of DREAMers in exchange for full funding for the wall, elimination of chain migration, mandatory e-verify, and other patriotic immigration reforms. Stefanik preferred a more liberal compromise.
- She criticized Trump’s heroic comments about immigrants from “s***hole” countries as “wrong and contrary to our American ideals” [New York Republicans divided on Trump’s ‘sh*thole’ comments, by Grace Segers, City&State New York, January 12, 2018].
- In 2017, she opposed the travel ban and criticized the border wall as “not realistic.”
Stefanik’s Northeastern New York State district is 88 percent white and only 3.4 percent Hispanic. Her immigration boosterism is thus not an appeal to her few non-white constituents. It is likely motivated by the agriculture industry’s power in her district. Her House website describes agriculture as the district’s “backbone”. She wants to expand the H-2A visa program to benefit the dairy industry [Stefanik co-sponsors revised agriculture bill to keep migrant labor on farms, by Abraham Kenmore, Watertown Daily Times, July 19, 2018].
Prior to the impeachment hearings, Stefanik was primarily a Trump critic. Beside immigration, she also opposed Trump on foreign policy and trade. She also strongly supported Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russia collusion and indicated Trump was too pro-Russia [Timeline: Rep. Stefanik often sharply critical of Trump, but backs his agenda, NCPR News, August 10, 2018].
And Stefanik only reluctantly supported Trump in 2016. She went after Trump for his criticism of a Muslim Gold Star father and condemned the future president’s comments in the Access Hollywood tapes. A few weeks before the election, she said she “totally opposed” Trump’s foreign policy but supported “my party’s nominee” without saying Trump’s name.
To sum her up, she’s pro-Amnesty, pro-cheap foreign labor, pro-bad trade deals, pro-neocon foreign policy, and anti-border security. She doesn’t support the America First agenda that put Trump in the White House, which explains why she was never much of a Trump fan…until now.
Stefanik is another immigration booster. And, unfortunately, she’s not the only one. There are so many others Trump has embraced.
- Chris Collins was one of the first congressmen to endorse Trump in 2016. It was an odd move for Collins, who was a vocal supporter for Amnesty. He attempted several times to claim Trump supported amnesty and refused to acknowledge Trump’s immigration patriotism [GOP lawmaker: Immigration compromise not a new position for Trump, by Eugene Scott, CNN, March 1, 2017].
- South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham is one of Trump’s staunchest allies in the Senate, yet continues to support increased immigration and Amnesty. Like Collins, Graham has tried to claim the president supports liberal immigration policies and pushes Trump in that direction. Graham’s Trump association has given him a significant boost with the base. Like Stefanik, he became an unlikely right-wing hero for unapologetically defending U.S. Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanuagh against the smear campaign during his confirmation hearings.
- Former Wisconsin Rep. Sean Duffy supported citizenship for illegals before he became a vocal Trump defender on TV [Sean Duffy On Immigration: ‘Put Them On A Path To Citizenship’, by Elise Foley, HuffPost, May 23, 2013]. However, unlike Collins and Graham, Duffy appeared to improve on immigration with Trump in office. He earned a B+ from NumbersUSA for his last term. Duffy resigned in September to become a CNN contributor. He was recently called a bigot for criticizing impeachment witness Colonel Alexander Vindman over his obvious dual loyalty [CNN defends new contributor Sean Duffy while anchors decry his ‘anti-immigrant bigotry, by Michael Calderone, Politico, October 29, 2019].
Trump’s White House is full of immigration boosters and Amnesty advocates. Vice President Mike Pence, Energy Secretary Rick Perry, and Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney are just a few. However, these figures have largely gone along with Trump’s immigration agenda. But former United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley did not go along with the president’s immigration agenda and tried to undermine it at the UN [U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley Vows Support for Refugees, by Felicia Schwartz, The Wall Street Journal, May 21, 2017]. Yet she still receives Trump’s support.
The same cannot be said of genuine immigration patriots like Jeff Sessions, Kris Kobach, and Steve King.
- Sessions was Trump’s first Senate endorsement, yet the president might try to destroy the Alabamian’s Senate bid. Trump can forgive the transgressions of Graham and Perry, but can’t get over Sessions’ recusal from the Russia investigation.
- Kobach was also an early Trump supporter and advised his campaign, but Trump’s White House staffers killed the former Kansas secretary of state’s chances to serve in the White House. And they don’t support his Senate campaign. Kobach has always been loyal to Trump, but the GOP Establishment’s complaints about his “electability” appear to matter more.
- King was not an early supporter of Trump—he favored Ted Cruz—but he’s been a staunch advocate of the president’s agenda since the inauguration. Nevertheless, Trump has not backed King in his fight against MSM and GOP Establishment smears, although he more than anyone should know how deranged and cowardly these can be.
The three legislators are Trump’s strongest allies, but he’s too busy listening to his disloyal advisers to notice. So Stefanik, as opposed to Kobach for instance, is the “new Republican Star.”
Trump should remember: In 2016, Middle American did not vote for GOP “stars” who back Business First and reject America First. It voted for a man who promised to defend the Historic American Nation.
Trump’s GOP is not yet an America First party. And it won’t become one until immigration patriotism is its litmus test.
That means not giving power to the likes of Elise Stefanik.
Washington Watcher II [Email him] is an anonymous DC insider.