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David Gaither, former Pawlenty aide, lobbying for immigration reform

Gaither took part in a major Capitol Hill lobbying effort in Washington, meeting with Minnesota representatives.

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.

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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.