GOP Donors Urge House to Pass Immigration Reform

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Carol Hills: Congress is also following the latest NSA revelations closely. Lawmakers are considering putting more limits on the agency's authority to conduct vast sweeping surveillance programs. That has perhaps diverted attention from other issues on Capitol HIll like immigration reform. The senate passed a reform bill with bipartisan support last month, but the measure has stalled in the much more divided house which prompted some big-name Republican party donors and fundraisers to send a letter to Republican house members. The letter urges lawmakers to "fix our broken immigration system" and warns that doing nothing is de facto amnesty. Some one hundred people signed the note, including top GOP strategist Karl Rove, former Vice President Dan Quayle, and several prominent business leaders. Joining me now is Lynn Tramonte the deputy director at America's Voice, a Washington-based immigrant advocacy group. Lynn, first, do you think the letter will have any impact on house Republicans?

Lynn Tramonte: Well, it's not just this letter. It's hundreds of letters from other donors, from business leaders, chambers of commerce. Everybody is seeing that the immigration issue has a chance to get resolved this year and they're putting their muscle into pressuring Congress to act.

Hills: You know, the house, of course, people there have to be re-elected every two years and so in some ways they're stuck with the need to get re-elected versus perhaps supporting immigration reform. How do you overcome that?

Tramonte: There's this irrational fear out there that American non-Latino voters don't support the same immigration policy as Latino voters and I don't how many hundreds of polls we have that prove this false. People are much more pragmatic on this issue than politicians seem to think. I think politicians misread sort of the frustration and anger out there as opposition. If they get a couple of people screaming at them in a town hall, they believe that they speak for hundreds more in a district who just haven't shown up. And what we've found is that the anti-immigration folks, they don't speak for a large group of silent people that aren't showing up, you know what I mean? They make their voices heard and the groups that are swaying elections are the people in the middle who respond well to this [??] immigration reform. And then, of course, Latino, Asian, and other new immigrant voters who are just unable to vote for a politician who is talking about deporting their family member and once that issue gets taken off the table they'll be much more willing to listen to the Republican speech.

Hills: Now, your polls show that seventy-five percent of Latinos went for President Obama. Is that correct?

Tramonte: Yep.

Hills: And you think if immigration reform gets done, do you think many Latinos will migrate to the Republican party?

Tramonte: When you're looking at Latinos who are already voting, over half of them have voted for a Republican at some point in time. But the polling from Latinos' [??] shows that immigration is sort of a litmus test issue for these voters and that they're willing to give Republicans a second look once they stop using the immigration issue in a negative way and show leadership about getting it resolved.

Hills: Lynn Tramonte is the deputy director at America's Voice, a Washington-based immigrant advocacy group. Thanks so much, Lynn.

Tramonte: Thank you.