Former Gov. Tim Pawlenty’s chief of staff, David Gaither, took part in a major Capitol Hill lobbying effort in Washington last week to push for immigration-reform legislation.
Gaither is executive director of the International Education Center in Minneapolis, which last year helped 1,000 immigrants from 89 countries develop language and work skills. Recruited by FWD.US — the Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates pro-immigration reform group — Gaither joined representatives from Cargill, Ecolab, Hormel and several religious organizations and met with Reps. Tim Walz, Erik Paulsen and Collin Peterson.
“Immigration reform should not be a partisan issue,” Gaither said. “For moral, legal and business reasons, we need reform.”
He said that Republican Paulsen and Walz, a Democrat, in particular seemed eager to see a bill pass the U.S. House. The GOP-controlled House plan most likely to pass would not provide a “special” path to citizenship for the country’s estimated 11 million illegal residents. “That’s the one thing that gives them the most heartburn,” Gaither said.
But Gaither said that Walz, Paulsen and Peterson, a Democrat, appreciated the needs outlined by Minnesota business: modifying the system to allow more highly skilled workers to enter the country and fixing glitches in the “e-verify” system that can misidentify immigrants and countries of origin.
“I work with immigrants every day, and have so for the past six years. I see what happens at one end of a bad immigration policy,” Gaither said.
He predicted that with the united pressure of business and religious groups, House Republicans will pass reform legislation this session. “It’s a question of when not if,” he said.