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Last time Washington took a swing at comprehensive immigration reform, the far right went nuts. In 2007, when President George W. Bush joined with leading Democrats to push an immigration package, the bill died in the Senate, the casualty of a GOP base revolt stoked by talk radio and hardline anti-immigration groups. (And, by the way, some Democrats were happy to watch a Bush initiative go down.) Now, after the Senate’s bipartisan Gang of Eight released an immigration reform package and President Barack Obama essentially backed the effort, the looming question is whether opponents of immigration reform can muster the same kind of backlash—and how ready Republican supporters of immigration reform are to fight back.
Carlos Gutierrez was Bush’s secretary of commerce when the 2007 immigration bill crashed and burned. “It was on the one hand talk radio, on the other it was these groups: FAIR and NumbersUSA, Center for Immigration Studies,” Gutierrez says, naming several restrictionist groups founded by anti-immigration activist John Tanton. “We were getting it all over the place.”
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