By Manu Raju
August 17, 2016
Donald Trump's new campaign manager once made the case to Republicans that the party should embrace a comprehensive immigration bill and legal status for undocumented immigrants -- differing sharply with the GOP candidate's hardline stance on the issue.
Kellyanne Conway, who was named Trump's campaign manager Wednesday morning, co-authored a 2014 polling memo for the pro-immigration group FWD.us touting the benefits of a sweeping overhaul bill that would have created a 13-year pathway to citizenship for roughly 11 million undocumented immigrants.
The memo, which was signed by Conway and 15 other GOP pollsters, argued that "most Americans don't believe deportation is a viable policy" and that there is an "overwhelming consensus" for "some kind of legalization" for people in the United States illegally. The pollsters made the case that there is "broad support" for the bill that Trump now strongly opposes but Hillary Clinton supports.
"Supporting this new immigration reform proposal should be good electoral politics for Republicans," the memo said.
The findings differ sharply from Trump's positions, which include a wall built on the border with Mexico, deporting millions of people here illegally and "extreme" vetting of people entering the United States. It also breaks from the reported direction Trump will take his campaign in the final stretch, doubling down on his populist and nationalistic policies and law-and-order message.
The memo highlights the lingering GOP divide over how to approach the hot-button issue of immigration, with the business community strongly backing a comprehensive approach and party activists saying such a sweeping bill would provide "amnesty" to lawbreakers.
But the findings from Conway and the other GOP pollsters said that -- by a 2-to-1 margin -- voters did not believe the comprehensive bill amounted to amnesty.
"Passing immigration reform gives Republicans an opportunity to gain the support of the remaining quarter" of Hispanic voters who are undecided, the polling memo said. "Doing so solves a serious problem in a way that Americans, including Hispanics, overwhelmingly support -- and improves Republicans' standing with swing voters now, in the next presidential election, and for years to come."
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