American Conservative Union Chairman Al Cardenas believes immigration reform must be passed quickly to ensure a successful economic future for the country and to make illegal immigrants here today productive members of society.
Speaking to Newsmax TV, Cardenas said he can understand why some conservatives are upset at the idea of granting amnesty to illegal immigrants currently in the United States.
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However, he believes that comprehensive immigration reform is the best option for the country’s future.
“They’ve got to understand that we’ve got de facto amnesty. The president has signed an executive order that prevents our country from enforcing the laws that are on the books. Therefore, you have de facto amnesty and that will be the case for at least the next four years,” Cardenas said. “What’s the best way to deal with de facto amnesty? To undo amnesty. We need an immigration bill first and foremost to deal with the future.”
Cardenas said if the United States wants to avoid becoming Japan, as a result of declining growth, it has to enact a smart immigration policy. Such a policy would also allow the government to collect taxes from the estimated 5 percent of the nation’s work force, which are undocumented workers and pay no taxes.
“What’s with that? You’re leaving $3 trillion on the table for the next 10 years of revenues to Uncle Same. We need to find a visa or guest worker program to give legal status to those who are already working here so they come out of the shadows and become productive members of society,” he said. “But I don’t believe a path to citizenship is necessarily the way to go because it really compensates folks for not having lived by the laws of this country.”
Speaking on specific immigration plans, Cardenas said it’s important to start with a plan that will pass and to also have a plan that first and foremost puts America’s economy as its priority, rather than politics.
“In the Senate because of the Democratic majority, you cannot pass a comprehensive immigration bill without dealing with a path to citizenship, as difficult as it may be. And in the House, you’re going to have to deal with a comprehensive bill that more likely doesn’t have a path to citizenship,” he said. “At some point in time, both of these conflicting measures have to go into conference and they have to decide the final outcome. I’m willing to accept either outcome over de facto amnesty that the president has, although I would prefer the House version.”
Much has been made of the Republican Party’s need to embrace Hispanic voters. Cardenas sees those efforts starting with engaging Hispanics in a variety of ways. He said this year’s CPAC conference is working toward that goal, which is why organizers invited 18 Hispanics to speak.
“We’ve got folks in the main stage like Sen. Ted Cruz and Sen. Marco Rubio, who are true conservatives. We have on our panels folks like Ambassador Otto Reich and Ambassador Roger Noriega – Hispanics who have earned their wings by their intellectual capabilities,” Cardenas said. “So we’re engaging. I believe that you grow by spreading our conservative gospel and not diluting our values. That’s the way to go,” he said.
Like other leading Republicans, Cardenas said he doesn’t see both Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio running in 2016.
“Neither has, obviously, made up their minds yet. But they’re obviously going to give it some thought and, at some point, we’ll learn. It’s just difficult for me to envision two good friends from my native state of Florida running for the same nomination when they’ve had such a long friendship. So we’ll see who does it, but I doubt they both will,” Cardenas said.
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