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Have lobbyists spent too little on immigration reform?

A new U.S. citizen holds the United States flag during a naturalization ceremony July 2, 2013 in New York.

House Republicans met this afternoon to chart their approach to an immigration overhaul. They've called the bill the Senate passed dead on arrival. Still, some pro-immigration conservative groups are trying to sway them by putting money into political ads. But is it enough?

Switch on Fox News during primetime this week and you might see this ad:

It’s called the Border Surge,” a deep voice proclaims, “The toughest border security plan ever passed by Congress. Seven hundred miles of new fencing. Twenty thousand new border patrol agents.”

Dan Conston is communications director for the American Action Network. That’s the center-right advocacy group responsible for the spot.

This latest ad push is a $100,000-plus ad buy targeted at conservatives, lauding the specific components of the Border Surge plan,” he says.

Karl Rove’s Crossroads GPS also spent $100,000 on pro-reform ads. In fact, immigration supporters dished out about $2.5 million advertising dollars during the first half of the year. Now, that might sound like a lot. But it’s actually not. Remember New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s $12 million ad campaign for gun control? That didn't work so well. So should pro-immigration groups spend more money? Republican strategist Alex Vogel says there's just no momentum.

“We’re at a point where people don’t see this trending in the right direction, so they’re not gonna throw perceived good money after bad -- number one,” he says. “Number two, unlike the gun debate, there is no NRA on immigration.”

Meaning, there are no monolithic groups to dominate the airwaves … or fight against. Vogel says it’s normal not to see huge ad buys on an issue like immigration. He says this is a grassroots issue, in which targeting voters through calls and emails is more effective than reaching Congress through TV.

About the author

Kate Davidson is a regular contributor to Marketplace.

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