21 Immigration Reform Power Players

Some of the people leading on reform aren't politicians.

February 22, 2013, 11:05 AM

Feb. 22, 2013— -- intro: When it comes to immigration reform, politicians are usually the ones grabbing headlines. But there are many players behind the scenes who are working to get reform done, from the faith community, to business and labor. Add a host of activists, political insiders, and celebrities to that list as well.

Here are 21 immigration reform power players. Go ahead and add your own in the comments or tweet to @UnivisionNews.

quicklist: 1title: Steve Case, co-founder of America Online (AOL), @SteveCase

text: There's a somewhat surprising group leading the lobby for immigration reform -- the tech sector. Case is one of the most prominent advocates for reform, calling for an expansion of visas in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). He testified in favor of those issues before a Senate committee last week, adding that he also endorses a path to citizenship for the country's 11 million undocumented.

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quicklist: 2title: Janet Murguía, president and CEO of the National Council of La Raza (NCLR), @JMurguia_NCLR

text: How important is NCLR in the immigration reform debate? The organization, which advocates on behalf of Hispanics in the U.S., represents a network over nearly 300 community-based groups across the country and has been a political force in Washington since it was founded in 1968. As the head of the group, Murguía's approval will be a litmus test for both parties as they work on reform legislation.

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quicklist: 3title: Thomas J. Donohue, president and CEO of the U.S. Chamber of Commercetext: The Senate group working on an immigration reform bill wants business interests and unions to get on the same page about how to handle future flows of immigration. That put Donohue, the head of the country's most financially-powerful lobbying institution, in negotiations with leaders of organized labor.

Business and labor agreed to a set of principles on Thursday, a big step toward compromise on a reform bill, and Donohue issued a joint statement with AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka: "The fact that business and labor can come together to negotiate in good faith over contentious issues should be a signal to Congress and the American people that support for immigration reform is widespread and growing, and is important to our economy and our society."

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quicklist: 4title: Richard Trumka, president of the AFL-CIO, @RichardTrumka

text: As we mentioned, unions are sitting down with business, trying to reach a common ground that has eluded them during past reform efforts. Trumka is at the front of those negotiations.

The agreement with the Chamber of Commerce proposes the creation of a new worker visa and a federal bureau to make determinations about U.S. workforce needs, which can then be used in relation to immigration. By reaching a compromise with Donohue, Trumka eases the pathway for that part of an immigration bill, if the Senate chooses to adopt it.

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quicklist: 5title: Maria Cardona, Democratic strategist, @MariaTCardona

text: Democratic insider Cardona is a co-chair of inSPIRE STEM USA, a newly minted coalition of business and advocacy groups looking to make sure science and tech visas are part of any immigration reform package. You might recognize Cardona from CNN, where she riffs on politics, or from the campaign trail, as she served as a surrogate for Obama during his last election push. She's got a platform, but, perhaps more important, she has a track record of being able to fundraise.

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quicklist: 6title: Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS), @MarkSKrikorian

text: Even though some Republicans are challenging the conservative credentials of CIS, the organization still has enough pull in the Capitol to get an invitation to testify about immigration reform at both House and Senate committees hearings. Krikorian is arguably the leading voice for immigration restrictionists in the Twittersphere (or its #1 troll, depending on how you view it). A campaign to discredit his organization by Republican heavyweights like Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Grover Norquist caused a stir last week, but CIS has been closely allied with other GOP immigration players like Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas), so don't expect it to disappear any time soon.

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quicklist: 7title: Grover Norquist, founder and president of Americans for Tax Reform, @GroverNorquist

text: That brings us to Norquist. You've heard how much the conservative power broker dislikes taxes. Well, guess what? He's not crazy about people who want to restrict immigration, either. He's teamed up with a coalition of "Bibles, Badges and Business" to carry his message on immigration to people across the country. Most recently, he headlined a group of speakers at an immigration summit in Texas. "I think we need comprehensive reform that deals with the people who've been here for some time," Norquist told ABC/Univision in October. "I don't care how tall the fence is as long as the doors are big enough."

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quicklist: 9title: Cristina Jiménez, managing director of United We Dream, @UWDCristina

text: If you haven't heard about Dreamers, they are the young undocumented activists that have been publically driving the immigration debate forward in recent years. Jiménez is the head of United We Dream, the largest network of undocumented youth across the country. During the last reform push, during Obama's first term, Dreamers were more likely to be operating from outside the Beltway, leading campaigns that included hunger strikes and infiltrating immigration jails. That's changed a bit for groups like United We Dream, and Jiménez was one of the players invited to meet with Obama about reform earlier this month.

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quicklist: 10title: Rosario Dawson, actress, @rosariodawson

text: You don't see a ton of celebrities entrenched in the immigration policy debate, but New York City-native Rosario Dawson is one of the people using her Hollywood pulpit to advocate for reform. She's the chairwoman of Voto Latino, a civic engagement group that is mobilizing for reform and backing a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. Another Voto Latino campaign member -- actress America Ferrera -- was recently part of a fireside hangout with Cecilia Muñoz, the director of the White House Domestic Policy Council.

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quicklist: 11title: Jeb Bush, former Florida governor, @JebBush

text: Jeb Bush, son of one president and the brother of another, has always been regarded as a pro-immigration Republican, and the former governor could use this immigration-reform moment to position himself for a 2016 White House run. So far, he's kept a relatively low profile in the debate, but in a joint op-ed with constitutional lawyer Clint Bolick last month, he played the role of party elder, offering an outline for reform. Bush and Bolick are authoring a book on immigration due out in March. Most of all, he's backed a comprehensive approach to fixing the system, versus addressing one law at a time. Expect him to weigh in as a bill develops in the Senate.

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quicklist: 12title: Jose Antonio Vargas, Activist/Journalist, @joseiswritingtext: As an advocate for fixing the immigration system and an undocumented immigrant himself, Vargas has helped bring a human element to the debate. He testified before a Senate committee about the need for reform last week and we'll definitely be hearing more from him as the Senate works on producing a bill. He said this at the hearing:

"Immigration is about our future. Immigration is about all of us and before we take your questions, I have a few of my own: What do you want to do with me? For all the undocumented immigrants who are actually sitting here at this hearing, for the people watching online and for the 11 million of us, what do you want to do with us?"

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quicklist: 13title: Carlos Gutierrez, chairman of the Republicans for Immigration Reform super PAC

text: I've got a job for you: get us the money to dig the Republican party out of its electoral hole with Latinos. That's what Gutierrez, a former commerce secretary under George W. Bush and one-time CEO of the Kellogg Company, is trying to do as the head of a new super PAC, Republicans for Immigration Reform. He says the group will provide cover for GOP politicians who want to embrace immigration but fear primary challenges. When it comes to the message, he cited Sen. Rubio when speaking to The Washington Post: "People may agree with your economic policy, but if they think you want to deport their grandmother, they're not going to vote for you." And he just quit his job as a vice chairman at CitiGroup so that he can focus on the super PAC.

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quicklist: 14title: Richard Land, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission for the Southern Baptist Convention

text: For the past decade, Land has been the main spokesperson for one of the most powerful conservative religious lobbies in the country. The Southern Baptist Convention boasts 16 million members, and Land is leading them to focus on immigration in the coming months. The convention is part of an even larger evangelical push for immigration reform that is mobilizing more than 100,000 churches to talk address immigration among congregants.

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quicklist: 15title: Frank Sharry, executive director of America's Voice, @FrankSharry

text: Before he founded America's Voice, one of the premiere lobbying groups for immigration reform, in 2008, Sharry had been the head of the a similar group, the National Immigration Forum, for nearly two decades. So when it comes to immigration politics, he knows how to play ball. Over that period, he's seen a host of federal bills upping immigration enforcement, but never accomplished one of his organization's stated goals -- a path to citizenship for 11 million undocumented immigrants. You can bet that Sharry will have a heavy hand in the role the activist community plays in reform.

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quicklist: 16title: Condoleezza Rice, former Secretary of State, @CondoleezzaRice

text: Immigration isn't exactly Rice's wheelhouse, but she jumped into the debate last week when she announced that she'd be working with a bipartisan group of former officials in support of reform. Who's on board? Haley Barbour, the former Republican government of Mississippi; Ed Rendell, former Democratic governor of Pennsylvania; and Henry Cisneros, a Housing and Urban Development secretary under President Bill Clinton. Aside from the group's formation and a press call, not much has come out of it, but more should follow.

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quicklist: 17title: Sergey Brin,Google co-founder and president of technology

text: Brin isn't out advocating for a change to immigration laws, but Google has lobbied for an expansion of visas for tech workers. More importantly, though, Brin is an often cited example of the way immigration can spur economic growth and innovation. New York Magazine listed the Russian-born Brin at the top of "President Obama's Favorite Immigrants of All Time," noting that he's spoke about him glowingly on at least four occasions, most recently while promoting STEM visas.

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quicklist: 18title: Bob Stallman, president of the American Farm Bureau Federation

text: The Senate "gang of eight" has already said that agriculture will get a special deal in their immigration bill, and Stallman, as the president of the country's most powerful farm lobby, is representing the interests of growers. Farmers already have a guest-worker program to bring in temporary labor, but many growers don't use it because they find it too cumbersome. Look for Stallman to push for a quicker, more streamlined way to get workers to the U.S.

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quicklist: 19title: Arturo Rodriguez, president of United Farm Workers (UFW)

text: For growers to get what they want out of immigration reform, they'll have to strike a deal with unions, particularly United Farm Workers. The American Farm Bureau Federation has said it's been in talks with the UFW, which would put Rodriguez at the table, as well. There is common ground: Both growers and workers are looking for a more flexible system for temporary workers, where temporary workers are able to leave employers and where employers are able to fire at will.

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quicklist: 20title: Eliseo Medina, secretary-treasurer of SEIU, @SEIU_Eliseo

text: In 2007, the unions fractured over whether to support a guest worker program, with the AFL-CIO opposing it and SEIU supporting. Those days are over. Unions are approaching reform with a unified voice, and Medina is often the one making the case for reform in the media, whether it be in English and Spanish.

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quicklist: 21title: Jim Wallis, CEO of Sojourners, a national Christian organization and magazine, @jimwallis

text: Wallis is part of the evangelical coalition that is pushing for reform, and he brings a more progressive voice to the table to balance out conservatives like the Southern Baptist Convention. The D.C.-based writer and activist is connected in the Capitol -- he's one of several spiritual advisers to President Obama.

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