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But that hasn’t been an easy sell inside the House Republican caucus, which met behind closed doors last week to discuss immigration politics. “Clearly, this is something where there is no consensus within our conference, and it’s going to take some time to work it out,” Paulsen said.
The pressure has come from all sides. Last month, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee bought Spanish-language radio ads targeting Kline and Paulsen, who joined all but six House Republicans in voting for a GOP measure to restart deportations of illegal immigrants who were brought into the country as children.
The negligible numbers of suburban voters who speak Spanish only suggests a theatrical quality to the ad buy, which was minimal. But Democrats say more Americans align with them on immigration reform.
The Democratic-leaning firm Public Policy Polling surveyed seven potential swing districts, including Kline’s, and found that their Republican incumbents could face a potential backlash if they oppose immigration reform.
In Kline’s district, 44 percent of poll participants said they would be less likely to support him if he opposed comprehensive reform. Only 19 percent said a vote against immigration reform would make them more likely to support Kline.
“This is obviously a vexing issue for Republicans,” said Brad Woodhouse, president of Americans United for Change, a Democratic-aligned group.
But Kline disputes the pollsters’ findings. “I think what my constituents and people around the country want is to fix the system,” he said. “I actually don’t know any Republican or Democrat who says that the current system is a good system.”
What remains to be seen is whether GOP lawmakers can devise any system of penalties that would keep a path to citizenship something apart from amnesty, which remains abhorrent to the Republican base.
“I haven’t categorically, hold-my-breath-till-I-turn-blue said that won’t happen,” Kline said, “but I do think that there is a way that you can change their [legal] status that will be acceptable to the vast majority of the people in the Second District of Minnesota.”
Follow Kevin Diaz on Twitter @StribDiaz.