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Conservatives lobby House for vote on immigration reform

| Tuesday, Oct. 29, 2013, 7:15 p.m.

WASHINGTON — More than 600 business, law enforcement, religious and political leaders from throughout the nation converged on Capitol Hill on Tuesday to try to convince House Republicans to pass immigration reform this year.

The activists — mostly self-described conservatives — met with more than 100 members of Congress to urge them to take action on broad legislation that includes a way for most undocumented immigrants in the United States to earn citizenship.

Most of the people who flew in from nearly 40 states for the lobbying effort met with Republicans, since GOP lawmakers are in the best position to press House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, to schedule a vote on the issue.

“In every corner of the Capitol, the energy these farmers, tech leaders, police chiefs and pastors brought to the Hill was palpable,” said Ali Noorani, executive director of the National Immigration Forum. “They brought a new perspective to the debate, one informed by what they see every day in their local businesses, churches and police stations — a broken system that has a negative impact on local communities nationwide.”

Tony Rivero, vice mayor of Peoria, Ariz., is a conservative Republican who said his city needs more farm workers who are legally authorized to work.

“My message to our congressional delegation is that as a constituent and a conservative Republican I support a solution to this problem,” Rivero said. “We need to secure the border, identify the people who are here illegally and put them on a path to legality, and put enforcement measures in place to make sure we aren't here again in 10 years.”

Jeremy Robbins, director of the bipartisan Partnership for a New American Economy and an adviser to New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, said there is still time to schedule a vote this year.

The Partnership organized the fly-in along with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Bibles, Badges and Business for Immigration Reform network, and FWD.us, a pro-reform group founded by leaders of high-tech companies.

“Having more than 600 prominent conservative leaders fly here is a really powerful image and a powerful message,” Robbins said. “It's one thing to care about an issue and talk to your member of Congress when they're home. It's another thing to take off work and fly across the country and spend time on the Hill really making your case.”

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