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Republican hard-liners softening on immigration
Politics » Growing impact of Latino voters has some in GOP urging a vote on the Dream Act as a start.

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"I know Obama has helped Latinos, and I really wanted to keep that going," she said.

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Pragmatism vs. pandering » U.S. Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, cut his teeth on the immigration issue when he was first elected in 2008 — citing a hard-line approach — and who currently has a career grade of "A" with the restrictionist group NumbersUSA.

But this year, he managed to steer a visa reform bill through the House that sought to eliminate caps on certain countries to make it more equitable for people to come into the country. But he was frustrated when the bill stalled in the Senate.

He said the results of the election haven’t changed his position on the Dream Act — he opposes it — but he also said he was willing to work on the issue comprehensively in a bipartisan fashion.

He refused to blame Republican policies as the reason for tepid support among Latinos.

"I don’t think you skirt away from the rule of law to pander for votes," he said.

Chris Stewart, a Farmington Republican who won his first election to Utah’s 2nd Congressional District, said it was important to stop alienating the Latino vote and he supported the general principles of the Dream Act — though he stopped short of a full endorsement until he saw an actual bill.

But the former U.S. Air Force pilot said the GOP needed to take stock of what he believed was a watershed moment for the issue.

"We had a president who was running for re-election in the worst economy in a generation and won," Stewart said. "And when you do that, your party has to look at that and try and discover why. Clearly, some of the arguments we’re making aren’t resonating with voters."

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Alfonso Aguilar, executive director of the Latino Partnership for Conservative Principles, said it was a matter of Republicans tapping into their free-market philosophies.

With the second anniversary of the signing of The Utah Compact Sunday— a document that was mirrored by several states as a set of guiding principles to craft compassionate, comprehensive immigration reform — Aguilar said it was time for Republicans to adopt those ideals.

"There is a growing momentum within the conservative movement to embrace a market-based immigration plan that is in line with [President] Ronald Reagan, who said it best: ‘No regulation or law should be allowed if it results in crops rotting in the fields for lack of harvesters,’ " Aguilar said. "The influence of the opposition to reform — primarily unions and restrictionists — is slipping because their arguments have fallen flat."

Postelection relief » Leo, whose last name was being withheld to protect his identity as he is in the country illegally, said he was so worried about a Romney presidency he waited until after the election to apply for Obama’s deferred action policy.

That directive issued by the president earlier this year allows those between the ages of 15 and 30 to apply for a renewable two-year work permit provided they don’t have a criminal record and attended school.

He said he’s awaiting the processing of the application — a wait that is taking an average of three months.

"It’s a step in the right direction," he said. "It’s not the whole deal, but I’m more optimistic now than I was before Tuesday."


Twitter: @davemontero

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