As President Barack Obama presses Congress to produce legislation granting legal status to 11 million undocumented immigrants, Republican proponents have quietly begun laying the groundwork to persuade their own lawmakers and supporters to embrace the plan.
That effort goes public this weekend, when the Republican-aligned Hispanic Leadership Network will launch a TV ad featuring former Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez making the case for an overhaul.
“America’s the only place where a little boy who couldn’t speak English can grow up to be a CEO and U.S. secretary of Commerce,” says the Cuban-born Gutierrez, who served under former President George W. Bush. “Washington must pass immigration reform that grows the economy and respects the rule of law.”
The spot is to air nationally in English on ABC’s “This Week” and “Fox News Sunday” as well as in Spanish on the Spanish-language network Univision as part of a “six-figure” buy, the group said. The organization is an arm of the nonprofit American Action Network, which spent $11.7 million to influence congressional races last year, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
Obama won 71 percent of the Hispanic vote in the 2012 election compared to 27 percent for Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, who referred to proposals to legalize undocumented immigrants as “amnesty” and said his goal would be to prompt them to “self-deport.” Since then, Obama has aggressively campaigned for an immigration law rewrite. Many Republicans have said their party must drop its longstanding opposition to such a bill.
“American Action Network recognized years ago that conservatives have had an uphill battle in the Hispanic community,” Communications Director Dan Conston said. “As this immigration debate moves forward, we are looking to play a positive role in both supporting reform and in supporting the people that are making a positive contribution.”
The ad is only one part of the campaign. The Hispanic Leadership Network distributed talking points to Republican lawmakers earlier this year about how to talk about immigration reform and has been working to educate them about the benefits of an overhaul.
In the coming weeks, its think tank the American Action Forum plans to produce a study authored by its president Douglas Holtz-Eakin on the economic benefits of an immigration rewrite. Hotlz-Eakin is a former Congressional Budget Office director and Republican economic advisor.
“We think we can play a positive role in helping educate conservatives on the benefits,” said Conston.