A top Republican campaigning for immigration reform is warning that America needs at least 1 million more immigrants every year just for basic farming and construction jobs, not ban like some in the party are advocating.
Carlos Gutierrez, Commerce secretary under former President George W. Bush, said that without more immigrants, businesses won't be able to grow because there aren't enough workers available. And helping them could boost the Republican Party, added the former Kellogg Co. executive.
Speaking at a Republican confab, he said that comprehensive immigration reform passed in the Senate and rejected by House GOP leaders doesn't go far enough to help fill the jobs gap.
“The Senate bill has a quota of 112,000 agricultural workers. I talked to the people in agriculture -- we need about 700,000 to about 1 million per year," he told the Ripon Forum gathering. "The Senate bill has a quota of 15,000 construction workers every year. We need 15,000 workers in Miami. Where are we going to get the rest? We are giving businesses a choice. You hire illegally, you shut down, or you just don’t grow. It’s just not right. I think we can do better for our businesses. Being in favor of immigration -- legal immigration -- is good policy. It’s also good politics," he said.
He also warned that the Democrats are winning the immigrant vote by portraying the Republicans as bigots and offering an expansive life of European-style government dependency.
However, he said that the GOP can fight back by building their own team of "community organizers" to swarm immigrant communities and "talk to people about values and the downside of getting hooked on government dependency."
Gutierrez said that Obama's team is using federal handouts to win a greater share of the immigrant vote. "What I see with these community organizers is they're signing people up for food stamps. It's amazing. Now they're signing people up for the Affordable Care Act. They're out there doing stuff."
He told congressional legislative and communication aides at a Ripon Society Forum that the GOP needs to copy that model, but offer a message of work and free enterprise.
"We should be going into these communities talking to these people about free enterprise, talking about where you can get a good job, talking to people about taxes and how this whole model works, perhaps doing tutorials on small business, but teaching the opposite values," he said. "We need to be out there doing stuff that presents an alternative, because I think it’s a real crime that these people come over, are put on government assistance, and stay there forever. We need to present an alternative model. We need to do our own community organizing and talk to people about values and the downside of getting hooked on government dependency. We know where that leads.”
He spoke at The Ripon Society's 4th Annual Legislative and Communications Directors Symposium on Leadership at Mount Vernon on last Friday. Ripon released his remarks today.
Gutierrez is pro-immigration reform and said the issue can be a winner for the GOP. But he said that the party has to take action to fight the Image it is anti-immigrant.
“The Republicans lost the Hispanic vote -- we all know that. But what is not talked about enough is that we lost the Asian-American vote by a wider margin. That’s incredible. It’s unexplainable. And if you look across different groups, we’re losing the immigrant vote. Not because immigrants don’t like our policies -- they do. They come here to work and create something they couldn’t do back home. The problem is that they perceive that we don’t like them," he said.
"I think we’re missing the economic and strategic part of what immigration can do for our economy. We’re also getting played and we’re getting pushed into a corner. I don’t think Republicans are xenophobes. But the game of perception is being won by the other side because we’re not stepping up with a point of view on the whole subject.”
Updated at 12:02Paul Bedard, the Washington Examiner's "Washington Secrets" columnist, can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.