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Immigration reform "a make-or-break issue" for GOP: U.S. Republican lawmaker

By Matthew Rusling (Xinhua)

08:53, June 24, 2013

WASHINGTON, June 23 (Xinhua) -- Immigration reform is "a make- or-break issue" for U.S. Republicans, as the party needs to get more Hispanic voters on board or risks losing them, said Republican Senator Lindsay Graham on Sunday.

Graham, who is spearheading his party's push to fix the country 's broken immigration system, said implementing reforms is crucial to recruiting Hispanics.

"If (immigration reform) fails, and (if) we are blamed for its failure, our party is in trouble with Hispanics," he told Fox News Sunday. "Not because we're conservative, but because of the rhetoric and the way we've handled this issue."

"The Hispanic community is very close to our values but we have driven them away over this issue," he said.

Lindsay's comments come as the Senate pushes a bill for comprehensive reform that is expected to see a vote as early as next week. The bill includes plans to spend 30 billion U.S. dollars to beef up the U.S.-Mexico border with thousands of additional law enforcement personnel. It also provides a 13-year path to citizenship for roughly 11 million illegal immigrants, whereby they would pay fines and back taxes before becoming eligible for legal status.

Hispanics, a major voting block in the U.S., favor immigration reform, and the GOP sees the issue as a chance to make inroads with Hispanics, who voted overwhelmingly in favor of Democrats in last year's presidential election.

With 50,000 Hispanics reaching voting age every month in the U. S., analysts say the party risks becoming obsolete without more support from Hispanics and other minorities. Indeed, the party can no longer rely solely on white voters to win elections, as that demographic is shrinking, according to the recent U.S. census.

After losing the presidential race to Democrats last November, U.S. Republicans have set out to shift its image from a party of old, white men to one more in tune with an increasingly multi- cultural America.

While soul searching within the party has occurred for some time, Republicans were jolted by losses in the presidential election, in which they lost 71 percent of the Latino vote and 55 percent of women voters.

Experts said if GOP lawmakers are seen as leading the issue, it could bode well for their chances of making inroads with Hispanics.

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