GOP Pro-Immigration Group Prepares for Friendly White House Come January

logoBy Reid J. Epstein, WSJ

An unspoken assumption: Clinton will be in the Oval Office

One of the nation’s largest Republican pro-immigration reform groups on Tuesday announced a new campaign to push for a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants and other measures once the next president is inaugurated.

The unspoken assumption about the overhaul: The new president in January will be Democrat Hillary Clinton.

“If you’re going to make progress in this town you have to be prepared for when a door opens,” said Randel Johnson, who handles immigration for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

The Chamber is part of 13 GOP and business groups pushing for the new immigration reform offensive under the umbrella of the Partnership for a New American Economy, a group funded by former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who endorsed Mrs. Clinton and spoke on her behalf at the Democratic National Convention last week.

Though none of the officials interviewed would explicitly say that they believe Mrs. Clinton will defeat Republican Donald Trump in November, they are planning as if they will work with a White House friendly to measures like those included in an immigration bill that passed in the Senate in 2013. That legislation failed in the GOP-led House, in part because of backlash from Republican voters and threats of primary challenges to congressmen who backed it.

Now, members of the Bloomberg-led coalition are openly suggesting they will make progress on immigration with a new administration in the White House. The group is releasing a series of reports touting the economic impact of new immigration laws in each of the 50 states and in Washington, D.C.

“Immigration will be a top issue for the next president,” said John Feinblatt, the partnership’s chairman. “Not only do Americans want reform, our economy needs it.”

Along with the Chamber, organizations backing the Bloomberg immigration group include Google, Microsoft, Intel, Pinterest, the American Farm Bureau Federation and agriculture groups including the Western Growers Association and the United Fresh Produce Association.

Of course, business support for immigration laws that allow undocumented immigrants a path to citizenship or legal status came under strong attack from Republicans who oppose such measures. Mr. Trump won the GOP presidential nomination in large part because of popular support among Republican voters for his proposals to erect a wall along the Mexican border and create a “deportation force” to remove more than 11 million undocumented immigrants.

Mrs. Clinton has proposed a sharp reduction in the number of deportations and called for a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, among other measures.

Ben Johnson, the executive director of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, predicted in a Monday interview that immigration will be a top issue for the next president.

“I feel confident that there will be a conversation about immigration right out of the gate in 2017,” Mr. Johnson said. “There’s no denying that the starting point for those conversations may be very different depending on who is in the White House, but once a conversation about immigration reform begins, there’s no way to close that off.”

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