Billionaires are breaking from their respective political parties over immigration.
Progressive ‘Impeach Trump’ darling Tom Steyer endorsed Senator Dianne Feinstein’s (D-Calif.) challenger, Kevin de León, on Wednesday, citing the candidate’s commitment to immigrant rights and other issues as reason for his backing.
“I have known Sen. de León for years and have fought alongside him on immigrant rights, expanding health care and climate change,” Steyer said in a statement. “Our work together on behalf of all Californians has assured me that he would be a champion of California’s priorities and values. Kevin de León has proven himself to be the best of the next generation, and I am proud to support him for U.S. Senate.”
Galvanizing support from the progressive wing of the party, de León has challenged Feinstein over appearing to tolerate President Donald Trump’s hard-handed immigration policies—which have included promises to rescind the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) initiative and build a wall alongside the U.S.-Mexico border.
“You can’t ask Dreamers to have patience,” de Leon told POLITICO last month. “You can’t ask a hard-working immigrant mother who’s fearful of being detained and deported to have patience, who’s been here for decades to have patience.”
Steyer isn’t the only billionaire operative bankrolling a push for immigration reform: Charles and David Koch’s political network is calling on congressional leaders to negotiate a solution for the roughly 800,000 undocumented immigrants protected under DACA.
The Libre Initiative and Freedom Partners, two organizations funded heavily by the Koch Brothers, are dropping seven-figures on an ad campaign promoting immigration talks.
“There’s a bipartisan path forward on immigration that offers a permanent solution for our DREAMers and a stronger border. What are we waiting for? Certainty for DREAMers and security for everyone,” one ad set to debut on Sunday’s Meet the Press reads, according to a draft shared with POLITICO.
Following 2012’s presidential election—in which immigrant communities were seen by many analysts as a deciding factor in Barack Obama’s win—the Republican Party promoted a pro-immigrant platform through outreach networks like the Libre Initiative and presidential candidates advocating for amnesty.
But then, Trump kicked off his presidential campaign by calling Mexicans “rapists” and subsequently chartered a movement predicated on immigrant scapegoating. Faced with a crisis over a populist candidate scorching years of outreach, the Koch Brothers did not endorse Trump’s candidacy, but later worked closely with his administration on tax reform.
Flexing their political capital, the Koch Brothers and Steyer court immigrants while bringing them into the American capitalist system they govern, reinforcing their own dominance in politics.