Republicans are moving comprehensive immigration reform forward on Capitol Hill because "we understand it's solid for the economy," conservative activist Grover Norquist declares in an exclusive Newsmax TV interview.
"Immigration is America's No. 1 economic asset," Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform, tells Newsmax. "The rest of the world can't do that. We can have every smart person we want, every high-skilled person we want."
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"A lot of young people just starting out unskilled, as all Americans do when they're born here, come to this country, and so the business community is for immigration," Norquist says. "Big businesses, small businesses, high-tech, low-tech, the communities of faith, and the Republican leadership.
"The future of the Republican Party, all the different folks looking to lead the Republican Party at the national level in the future, recognize we should do immigration reform," he adds. "Understanding that the Senate bill is not everything we want, but that it needs to be reformed — and that there is a deep, deep distrust of Barack Obama."
"His own piece of legislation — his signature piece of legislation, Obamacare — he's deciding not to enforce certain laws that he passed, that he wrote, theoretically. How do you trust him to enforce laws on immigration that the Republicans write in the House?
"It's completely doable. It doesn't take a lot of time," Norquist says. "This is the year to vote."
Last month, the Senate passed a comprehensive immigration reform bill on a 68-32 vote that was backed by 14 Republicans. It includes provisions for a pathway to citizenship and increased border security.
The vote, which came on legislation introduced by the bipartisan Gang of Eight senators in April, sent the bill to the House of Representatives for consideration.
But the GOP-controlled House has said that it will not vote on such a huge Senate bill, opting instead to address immigration reform through a series of individual bills.
And House Speaker John Boehner, who vowed that the lower chamber would not take an "Obamacare-like" approach to immigration reform, has pledged to not bring any such legislation to the floor for a vote unless it has the support of most of his party's members.
Republicans have consistently attacked the Senate bill, saying it amounts to little more than amnesty for 11 million illegal immigrants; that it does little to strengthen the nation's borders; and that the Democratic leadership was rushing a complex legislation into law.
Norquist acknowledges that there are "a few loud voices" within the GOP that attack immigration reform as amnesty, but he pointed to 2007, when President George W. Bush called for immigration reform and how it was attacked as amnesty by then-Sens. Barack Obama, an Illinois Democrat, and Jim DeMint, a Republican from South Carolina who now heads the Heritage Foundation in Washington.
"They cast the deciding vote to put in a poison pill at the behest of the unions," Norquist tells Newsmax. "They put in a union-written, union-packed poison pill to stop future flows of immigration, and the bill died. Barack Obama and DeMint killed it last it time around, called it amnesty, and they did so at the behest of the unions."
Now, union leadership is strongly behind immigration reform.
"The unions' opposition has weakened and the support for comprehensive immigration reform on the right has strengthened."
And so is Obama, though his support is clearly political, Norquist observes.
"The president says he's for this bill. Ha! He was president in all of 2009. He was president in all of 2010. Never lifted a finger. When he had the power to do so, because he had supermajorities of Democrats in the House and the Senate, he didn't pass immigration reform.
"The unions do want this. The hard left doesn't. They have to say they do because they can't oppose it for their own internal political reasons," he says.
Further, Arizona's two GOP senators, John McCain, a member of the Gang of Eight, member, and Jeff Flake — both support immigration reform. The senators represent a state along the U.S.-Mexico border that is at the forefront of the immigration debate, Norquist says.
"People who say that there's a vote within the Republican Party that moves against immigrants is just factually not accurate," he says.
Norquist does point out that one of immigration reform's strongest House critics, Rep. Steve King of Iowa, "could have been a senator if he hadn't self-identified as anti-immigrant."
King has charged that passing new immigration laws would be ineffective because Obama will not enforce the laws already on the books.
"This is an executive branch problem, not a legislative branch problem," King told Fox News earlier this month. "No amount of new legislation will fix what Obama refuses to do."
Still, Norquist tells Newsmax: "He's not electable statewide. The cost of Steve King is that he can be a congressman but never anything else. Never a governor. Never a senator — and other congressmen want to vote for what's good for the country, not just what's good for the politics of their monochromatic districts."
And to enforce the border security provisions of any reform legislation, Obama needs to name a Republican to replace outgoing Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano.
"The level of trust on him on border security is probably lower today than when he came in, so it would be wise to nominate a Republican in general, not some Democrat Party hack," Norquist says.
Turning his attention to Attorney General Eric Holder's comments this week attacking Florida's "stand your ground" law, Norquist tells Newsmax that the remarks demonstrate how the White House is seeking to exploit yet another personal tragedy for political gain.
Citing the law, police in Sanford, Fla., originally declined to charge George Zimmerman, the former neighborhood watch volunteer who was acquitted on Saturday of fatally shooting unarmed 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in February 2012.
Zimmerman, 29, had been charged with second-degree murder. A jury of six women also could have considered a manslaughter charge.
The law, which allows the use of deadly force by someone who reasonably believes that they are facing an illegal threat, had come under further scrutiny because of the case.
"The 'stand your ground' laws have nothing to do with the Florida case," Norquist tells Newsmax. "And Holder is trying to use that issue to attack gun rights and people's rights to self-defense.
"That's a particularly vile misuse of the shooting, to try and attack a law that the people of many states have decided they want."
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