Republicans supportive of broad changes to immigration law are trying to build a political fence between their party’s presidential candidates and the anti-amnesty position popular with many in the conservative grassroots.
Mitt Romney’s abysmal 27 percent performance with Hispanic voters in 2012, which many attribute to his hardline opposition to so-called immigration reform during the GOP primary, still lingers with Republican establishment insiders two and a half years later. They’re working to prevent a repeat of that performance, which they believe contributed to Romney’s loss to President Obama.
Republicans who advocate changes to immigration policy that would include a pathway to legalization for the estimated 11 million or 12 million illegal immigrants currently living in the United States are working ahead of the 2016 general election to encourage GOP primary candidates to tamp down inflammatory rhetoric and support policies they deem constructive and politically sensible.
“The fundamental reason people should want to do immigration reform is that it’s hugely important for our economy,” said Jeremy Robbins, executive director of Partnership for a New American Economy. “But another reason to support immigration reform is the political imperative.”