CT Politics

Connecticut Politics

Gov. Bobby Jindal, Republicans turn attention to immigration reform

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It’s immigration, stupid.

GOP members are turning to immigration reform to upgrade a party image tainted by negative rhetoric toward Latinos this election.

Mitt Romney reopened fresh wounds when he said President Barack Obama was reelected because he bribed minority groups with “extraordinary gifts from the government.”

Comments like Romney’s get in the way of the conservative message and turn Latinos off to the GOP, said Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, the new chairman of the Republican Governor’s Association, during CNN’s “The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer.”

“Republican candidates this year did a lot of damage to the brand,” Jindal said. ”As a party, we need to stop talking down to voters.”

WASHINGTON, DC – NOVEMBER 08: Latinos and immigrants participate in a rally on immigration reform in front of the White House on November 8, 2012 in Washington, DC. Immigrant rights organizations called on President Barack Obama to fulfill his promise of passing comprehensive immigration reform. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

So Jindal and other Republicans are taking a new look at immigration, and it’s nothing like the “self-deportation” approach that might have cost Romney the presidency.

Texas, home to 1,254 miles of the 1,900-mile-long U.S.-Mexico border and a staunch Republican state, is shedding GOP stereotypes and moving toward  immigration reform in an attempt to ward off a potential Democratic takeover as the Latino population grows.

The movement is being spearheaded by Brad Bailey, a restaurant owner and political activist from Houston (who also uses E-Verify to check the citizenship status of his employees). His proposed immigration solution includes a temporary guest worker program, securing the border and reforming Social Security cards to prevent counterfeiting.

Bailey said a guest worker program would help employers find workers willing to take the jobs American won’t and help boost the economy. That’s something that gets Republicans to listen, and they did.

The Republican Party of Texas adopted the temporary worker program in its platform in June. The national party followed in August during the convention in Tampa.

Bailey said he’s watched as disbelieving Tea Partiers and GOP women’s groups come around to the reforms. Skeptics slowly uncross their arms when he talks them through the nuts and bolts.

“It’s resonated with people,” Bailey said. “A lot of people want to see solutions. They don’t want to see government gridlock.”

Bailey said it’s an issue that needs to be solved across the aisle but has divided the parties as they battle for the Latino vote. There’s also a chance it might loose momentum as Congress deals with the impeding fiscal cliff.

But especially now, there still might be a chance Republicans can work with Democrats to help fix the broken immigration system, said Arturo Sarukhan, Mexico’s ambassador to the U.S.

“The time is ripe not only because of the lessons being…derived from what happened a week ago in the United States, but because this new lay of land and the political muscle of Latino vote,” Sarukhan said.

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