Oct. 13, 2012— -- A conservative power player, best known for leading the Republican charge against tax increases, spent some time on Friday advocating for a different cause: immigration reform.
Grover Norquist, the head of Americans for Tax Reform, gave the keynote speech at the Midwest Summit, which brought together 80 regional leaders from business, faith and law enforcement.
"It's the most important thing to focus on if you're concerned about the future of the country both as an economic power and as a serious leader of the world, or simply as a successful society," Norquist said in the address. "It's not only good policy to have more immigrants in the United States -- dramatically more immigrants than we do today, to having a path forward for those people who are here. It's not only a good idea, but it's good politics."
Republican candidates who champion restrictionist immigration policies are betting on a losing horse, Norquist argued in his address.
"We have tested this issue again and again and again," he said. "It's not like 10 times we win, 10 times they win. These dice are fixed, guys. The pro-immigrant, pro-comprehensive position keeps winning on this."
With the presidential election less than three weeks away, Norquist didn't touch on the immigration politics of either Mitt Romney or President Barack Obama, but he lamented the tone on immigration during the Republican primary.
"I was surprised that even some of those guys went way off the edge on the immigration issue in a self-destructive way," he said. "They knew in general elections that this didn't work, but they believed that it might be a key issue in primaries."
In the speech, Norquist repeated the idea that while restrictionist immigration policies may appear to rile up voters, the energy doesn't transfer to the ballot box. "Some issues move votes, some issues move tongues," he said.
In an interview with ABC/Univision after the speech, Norquist said that supporting reform doesn't necessarily mean abandoning border security.
"I think we need comprehensive reform that deals with the people who've been here for some time," Norquist said, going on to cite a quote whose origin he couldn't quite remember. "I don't care how tall the fence is as long as the doors are big enough."