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A Signal From Central Valley That GOP May Act on Immigration

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Rep. Kevin McCarthy, a Republican from Bakersfield and House majority whip, says he'd favor a path to some form of legalization for undocumented immigrants, but not citizenship. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
Rep. Kevin McCarthy, a Republican from Bakersfield and House majority whip, says he'd favor a path to some form of legalization for undocumented immigrants, but not citizenship. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

As House Republicans prepare to wrestle with their differences on immigration at an annual retreat next week, one GOP lawmaker from the Central Valley is signaling there may be movement on an issue that has split the party. At the same time, a high-profile group of bipartisan leaders met in Silicon Valley Thursday to unveil a report showing immigrants are key to a robust U.S. economy.

The report by the Bipartisan Policy Center was released by former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and former Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff, both Republicans, and former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Henry Cisneros, a Democrat. They argued that America’s population is aging and needs immigrants to keep the labor force growing. A healthy economy, in turn, will enable the United States to maintain its global political and military preeminence.

“Immigrants not only add to the sheer numbers — so they continue the growth process,” said Cisneros, “but they tend to be younger — therefore they form families, therefore they have children, so they create the generation to come.”

Rice said she hoped to counteract what she called a misperception that immigrants are a drag on the economy. If Americans and their elected leaders understood the demographic and economic realities, they would be more likely to support comprehensive immigration reform, she said.

The message seemed calculated to give House Republicans a nudge — and possible political cover — as they hash out their differences in what GOP leaders hope will lead to a series of immigration bills this year. Some moderate and pro-business Republicans favor a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, while Tea Party conservatives say they regard most forms of legalization as amnesty for lawbreakers.

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Rep. Kevin McCarthy, of Bakersfield, said earlier this week that he favors a path to legal status but not citizenship. McCarthy, who as majority whip is No. 3 in the GOP's House leadership, signaled that provisional legalization may be part of a set of immigration principles that Republican leaders plan to release before next week's retreat. Those principles are being drafted by House Speaker John Boehner’s staff, including his new immigration policy staffer, Becky Tallent, whom Boehner recently hired away from the very same Bipartisan Policy Center.

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