Immigration reform: The political stakes

A long accepted political reality is that congressmen and senators are accustomed to viewing policy prescriptions, and their own political viability, in two and six year terms.  However, recent elections have illustrated that times and demographics are changing, and so are the demands of voters and our political system.  Republicans for Immigration Reform was founded with this valuable political lesson in mind.
 
When it comes to the need for comprehensive reform, the political stakes of the next two months pale only in comparison to the risks associated with inaction.  The mission of Republicans for immigration reform is to provide political support for Republican office holders that advance common-sense solutions to address the nation’s broken immigration system.  These issues can only be addressed through legislation and a substantive amendment process during the weeks ahead that recognizes secure U.S. borders, Rule of Law, the dignity of individuals and policies that seek to bolster American competitiveness.
 

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As a former Fortune 500 CEO, my experience showed me that immigrants possess the skills to contribute mightily to the growth and entrepreneurial spirit of our nation’s most innovative companies.  Today, more than forty percent of Fortune 500 companies are founded by immigrants or a child of immigrants.  As a former United States Secretary of Commerce, I can tell you that in order for our country to thrive in an international marketplace, we must construct an immigration system that brings the most-skilled workers and best-educated talent to our shores – if we do not, they are certain to become competitors.
 
And as an immigrant and proud lifelong Republican who came to America in search of opportunity, I can tell you that the only things perhaps more outdated than our immigration system, are the nonsensical views and misguided statements espoused by some extremist elements of my own party.  For years, Republicans have feared the political ramifications associated with implementing comprehensive immigration reform.  Sadly, false comparisons to “amnesty” are likely destined to make their way back into the public debate during the weeks ahead.  However, recent polling indicates that Republican voter opinions and need to fix a broken system have shifted strongly in support of creating a legal system that honors our laws, controls our border and reflects our nation’s diversity.  The public understands that we must fix our broken immigration system or surely a less productive domestic economy will do it for us – in a manner in which no American can afford.
 
According to recent focus groups conducted by Resurgent Republic, nearly three out of every four Republicans support the conditions outlined in the Group of Eight bill.  Similar polling this year from Fox News showed more than two-thirds of Republicans support comprehensive reform when amnesty is denied.  With an eye on the political campaigns of 2014, Republicans for Immigration Reform will underscore the fact that there is real political peril for Republicans who stand with groups who use scare tactics and false information to perpetuate an unsustainable status quo for the purposes of political gain.
 
What our country desperately needs is a modern legal immigration system that seizes upon new technology to simplify and modernize the process of entering and staying here legally.  The support these initiatives are receiving from Republican voters, as well as trusted conservative leaders in the House and Senate, indicates an emerging national consensus that the costs associated with further delay carry with them the potential to perpetuate compromised national security, sluggish economic growth and a jobless recovery.
 
While the Group of Eight legislation being debated in the Senate is by no means perfect it represents a critical starting point toward meaningful reform.  The Republican majority in the House of Representatives must seek to follow suit during the weeks ahead in a reasoned and respectful tone.  Republicans for Immigration Reform will not allow those who support reform to be bullied by opportunists on the right who threaten a primary challenge.  We are committed to providing campaign resources to Republican office holders who support common-sense reform.  And if recent trends are any indication, the American people are prepared to give them their vote.
 
Gutierrez serves as national chairman of Republicans for Immigration Reform and vice chairman of the Albright Stonebridge Group. He served as U.S. Secretary of Commerce under President George W. Bush.