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GOP fights itself over immigration reform

May 08, 2013|By Sandra Hernandez
  • Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) laughs during a press conference with other members of the so-called Gang of Eight, a group of senators lobbying for an immigration overhaul.
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) laughs during a press conference with other members… (Jim Lo Scalzo / EPA )

Over the last few years the Republican Party has campaigned hard against comprehensive immigration reform and in favor of tougher internal enforcement and beefed-up security along the U.S. border with Mexico.

Now the GOP leadership is hoping to persuade its base to consider a different option: a bipartisan Senate bill that would result in sweeping changes to existing immigration laws. The bill would also create a pathway for millions of immigrants who are illegally in the United States to remain in the country and eventually apply for citizenship.

The problem is that GOP leaders are having a hard time persuading some in the party to throw their support behind the Senate bill. As The Times’ Lisa Mascaro reported, the tough task of selling immigration reform to the GOP faithful has been left to Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla).

Frankly, I’m not surprised that Rubio is getting push-back from some quarters of the Republican Party. After all, the GOP worked hard to defeat previous immigration bills. Its leaders have said in the past that any legalization bill is little more than an amnesty that would result in a huge drain on the economy. Now the same party wants to argue against itself?

Fortunately, Rubio is getting some help from influential conservatives, including Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform. Norquist has repeatedly testified before Congress in support of the Senate immigration bill. Norquist says the Senate bill and efforts to legalize millions of immigrants would help, not hurt, the economy.

And Rubio can also look to the American Action Forum, a conservative think tank headed by a respected economist. Last month, the group released a report that suggested that more immigration would bring fiscal benefits over time that could help grow the economy and reduce the deficit.

That’s important given that this week the Heritage Foundation released a report that concludes that giving immigrants who are illegally in the country a pathway to citizenship would cost around $6.3 trillion over time. That's an alarming figure, but I'm not sure it's accurate given that the report assumes much of the cost will come from immigrants getting public benefits. 

The Congressional Budget Office is expected to issue its assessment of the immigration reform bill soon.

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