FWD.us Immigration Ad Targets Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity Fans

WASHINGTON -- Americans for a Conservative Direction, a wing of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg's political group FWD.us, is airing an ad on conservative talk radio to push for comprehensive immigration reform, claiming there is little to no border security or enforcement under the current system and that more needs to be done.

It's a questionable argument, considering the record deportation levels under President Barack Obama and the large sums of money already devoted to ramping up border enforcement. The ad, which is running during Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh's shows, supports the "gang of eight" immigration bill to be considered on the Senate floor in June, but also seems to say that it would not increase border security enough.

The ad exemplifies, in some ways, the progressive criticism of FWD.us. Progressives argue the organization is giving credence to inaccurate and misguided arguments by adopting conservative language, such as "amnesty," to make space for Republicans to support immigration reform.

The ad begins by saying the current system is in shambles: (Read the full transcript below and listen to the ad above)

Male voice: Our immigration system is a joke, and the whole world knows it.

Female voice: Our border is unsecure, our laws are unenforced. We don't know who's here, what they're doing or even why.

Male voice: What we have now is a national security nightmare waiting to happen.

The group's political strategy has drawn significant criticism from immigration reform supporters and Silicon Valley heavyweights in recent weeks. An earlier TV ad campaign praised lawmakers for backing projects like the Keystone XL pipeline and drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. FWD.us has argued that the ads were meant to give home district support to lawmakers who were also backing immigration reform.

This month, billionaire eco-entrepreneur Elon Musk announced that he was withdrawing his backing of FWD.us due to its political strategy. David Sacks, founder of the business networking site Yammer, also dropped out.

CREDO and Progressives United, two prominent progressive groups, have been pressing the Silicon Valley backers of Zuckerberg's group to pull out as well.

FWD.us spokeswoman Kate Hansen has said the group understands that "not everyone will always agree with or be pleased by our strategy," but it remains "totally committed to supporting a bipartisan policy agenda that will boost the knowledge economy, including comprehensive immigration reform."

The ad airing during Limbaugh and Hannity doesn't misrepresent the immigration reform bill from the gang of eight; the legislation says border security will come first, that some undocumented immigrants will still be deported, and that there will be a difficult path to citizenship. But the ad also implies the current immigration enforcement system -- which deported a record of more than 400,000 people last year -- is doing nothing. In addition, it glosses over spending on immigration enforcement, which was at nearly $18 billion in the 2012 fiscal year, according to a report released in January from the nonpartisan Migration Policy Institute. That sum is more than the combined spending of all other federal enforcement agencies, including the Drug Enforcement Administration and the FBI.

Conservatives have argued the bill should go further than it does. Sen Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), a member of the gang of eight, hinted to Hannity last week that he might propose an amendment to change border enforcement requirements in the bill.

Limbaugh and Hannity disagree on immigration reform. Limbaugh has been highly critical of the gang of eight immigration bill, and lauded a failed effort by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) to strip it of its provision allowing undocumented immigrants to eventually become citizens. Earlier this year, Limbaugh said he'd never understand Rubio's thinking.

Hannity has been more open to immigration reform. He said in November -- shortly after the election -- that he would support securing the border and then eventually allowing undocumented immigrants to become citizens.

FWD.us campaign manager Rob Jesmer told Bloomberg News it was the smart choice to run ads during the radio shows.

"There’s a lot of conversation about immigration happening on talk radio," he told Bloomberg. "We'd be foolish not to get our message out over that medium."

The full ad transcript:

Male voice: Our immigration system is a joke, and the whole world knows it.

Female voice: Our border is unsecure, our laws are unenforced. We don't know who's here, what they're doing or even why.

Male voice: What we have now is a national security nightmare waiting to happen.

Female voice: But conservatives like Marco Rubio and Paul Ryan...

Male voice: ...they're working on plans to change that.

Female voice: It all starts with real border security: more fencing, more manpower and high-tech surveillance.

Male voice: Next, deport any illegal immigrant guilty of a serious crime. For the rest, no amnesty, period.

Female voice: If they have a job, if they pay a fine and if they learn English...

Male voice: ...they can go to the back of the line with no federal benefits. That means no welfare, no Obamacare -- nothing.

Female voice: It's a tough approach...

Male voice: ...and conservatives are working to make it tougher.

Female voice: But it's fair and enforceable.

Male voice: And that's the opposite of what we have now.

Female voice: Call Congress. Tell them to fix our broken immigration system. Paid for by Americans for a Conservative Direction.

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