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April 19. 2013 4:53AM

Group of NH Republicans support immigration reform plan

CONCORD - A group of New Hampshire Republicans joined Thursday with the bipartisan national Partnership for a New Economy in support of the so-called "Gang of Eight" compromise immigration reform plan unveiled on Capitol Hill this week.

Katie Summers-Grice, former New England Regional Representative for the U.S. Department of Labor during the George W. Bush administration, said at a news conference the group will work with community leaders throughout the state during the next several months "to help promote the sound principles that we hope our elected officials in Congress will consider as a part of reform package that will begin moving through." She said, "We are heartened by many of the reforms we have seen put forth" in the "Gang of Eight" plan.

Kevin Smith, a 2012 candidate for governor who lost in the Republican primary, said the efforts by the "Gang of Eight," and in particular by Florida Sen. Marco Rubio "is really a great first start."

"Most Americans realize at this point we do need to upgrade and modernize immigration laws in this country," Smith said. "And it is an economic issue as well."

They were joined at a news conference Thursday by state Reps. Pam Tucker and George Lambert, business owner and former state Rep. Shaun Doherty, former Hillsborough County Treasurer Bob Burns, former state Republican Party Chairman Fergus Cullen, who now heads the Americans-By-Choice advocacy group, and businessman and political strategist Andrew Hemingway.

Summers-Grice said that as "a starting point," the local coalition "believes that securing our borders, improving systems for employment verification, increasing opportunities for skilled immigration, streamlining the seasonal immigration worker program and establishing paths to legal citizenship should be among the things considered as the U.S. Senate and House begin debate."

The group urged New Hampshire U.S. Sens. Jeanne Shaheen and Kelly Ayotte to support immigration reform legislation this year. According to NBC News, "Gang of Eight's" 844-page proposal allows qualified undocumented immigrants to apply for "Registered Provisional Immigrant" status. This allows them to live, travel and work legally in the United States for 10 years before becoming eligible to earn a green card, NBC reported. NBC said it also puts in place border security and employment verification "triggers" that must be met before the legalization process begins, and it revamps a backlogged legal immigration system to favor more employment-based visas.

The Partnership for New Economy, co-chaired by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, publisher Rupert Murdoch and hotelier J.W. "Bill" Marriott, Jr., is a group of about 500 Republican, Democratic and independent mayors and business leaders pushing for immigration reform. The three applauded the "Gang of Eight" plan on Wednesday.

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