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Conservative coalition puts pressure on GOP to embrace immigration reform

A coalition of business and religious leaders gathered Tuesday to pressure Republicans to embrace immigration reform.
 
The coalition, formed by the bipartisan group National Immigration Forum, is holding two days of meetings to figure out how to best press forward on immigration reform. The conclusion of many of its participants is that GOP lawmakers must be shown it’s in their interest to pass broad immigration reforms, and that conservatives will rally around them if they support those proposals.
 

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“As we meet with senators and congressmen in the forthcoming days I’m going to be stressing to them that they need to exercise responsible leadership and forge a coalition of the middle,” said Richard Land, a leader in the Southern Baptist Convention and prominent social conservative.
 
Land added that he would stress to anti-reform Republicans that the party’s ability to win national elections going forward depends on winning Hispanic voters, and that the party’s handling of immigration reform was hindering that.
 
“A lot of what happens in Washington happens because of enlightened self-interest, and it should be clear to those in the Republican Party who oppose immigration reform that if they want to continue to be a contender for national leadership in this country they’re going to have to change their ways on immigration reform,” he said. “That’s called enlightened self-interest. It’s called reality. It’s called self-preservation. We’ll take their votes, whether it’s for the right reason or the wrong reason.”

The conference features 250 participants from 26 states, including evangelical and Catholic clergy, business leaders and local and state-level law enforcement officials. Many will take to Capitol Hill on Wednesday to lobby members of both parties about the issue. The group also has a Wednesday meeting scheduled with White House officials.
 
Others promised to show Republican officials there’s support within the party for reform.
 
Brad Bailey, a Republican who heads the Texas Immigration Solution, said that Mitt Romney’s immigration rhetoric during the GOP presidential primary is “what got me in the fight,” and later told The Hill that it might have been a “blessing in disguise” for the GOP that Romney lost.
 
“We as conservatives have got to rally around [undecided lawmakers] and let them know that the vocal minority isn’t as strong as they think they are,” he said, pointing out that he’d successfully led the push to include a guest-worker program in the Texas GOP’s official party platform over immigration hawks’ protestations.
 
“Now we can win this fight,” he said, arguing that pro-immigration conservatives were catching up with those who oppose immigration reform in terms of organization and, while declining to name lawmakers, said that many in Congress who’d turned down requests to meet in previous years have agreed to sit down with them this week.
 
Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff (R) said that even in conservative states, there was hunger for a balanced approach on immigration. He successfully fought against an Arizona-style immigration law in his state and helped pass the “Utah Compact,” which called for a federal solution and “humane approach” to immigration.
 
Shurtleff argued that any push for immigration reform “needs to be comprehensive” rather than “piecemeal,” though others weren’t as firmly committed to that.
 
“We’re more concerned about the result than the methodology and process,” Land said