Republican Money Backs Immigration Push

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As Congress readies for a drawn-out immigration debate, an expanding network of Republican fundraisers is pressing for a path to legal status for millions of immigrants living in the United States illegally.

Business leaders and donors who raised tens of millions in the last election are meeting with top GOP fundraisers and Republican lawmakers who may be reluctant to support what critics call “amnesty” for immigrants who broke the law.

At the same time, a coalition of fundraisers who support overhauling immigration is funneling donations to a new crop of outside groups designed to protect like-minded congressional Republicans who fear a backlash by GOP’s core supporters.

In most cases, the donors have ties to Wall Street and businesses that want more high- and low-skilled immigrants in the nation’s legal labor pool. Backed by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, these business-minded Republican fundraisers say they’re getting a relatively receptive audience in the face of an undeniable new political reality. Record Hispanic turnout helped President Barack Obama defeat Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney last fall. And projected population growth ensures that immigrants’ political clout will grow stronger.

The network of Republican donors is at odds with many on the GOP’s right flank — tea party activists among them — who argue for increased border security first and foremost. That was largely the position of Romney, who encouraged immigrants without legal status to “self-deport.”

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