NOW with Alex Wagner | March 11, 2013
>>> who have put down roots and who have lived here even though some time back they may have entered illegally.
>> ronald reagan , believed in amnesty prior to passing immigration reform . but since then the very mention of the word has come to symbolize republican resistance, could the political winds be shifting? last week, jeb bush found out the hard way.
>> for years you supported a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants . now apparently according to your new book, no longer support that. you support a path to legal residency in this country. why have you changed?
>> well first of all, i haven't changed. i support a path to legalization or citizenship so long as the path for people that have been waiting patiently is easier and costs less, the legal entrance to our country, than illegal entrance.
>> momentum for reform continues to build. over at the white house on friday, president obama met with faith leaders to discuss reform efforts, meanwhile according to the a.p., the gang of eight in the senate has been meeting several times a week and may have a reform bill ready as soon as early april. the " l.a. times " reports that their draft will be several hundred pages long. and that the wait for a green card will likely be ten years or longer. undocumented workers would be required to register with the department of homeland security , file federal income taxes for the time they've been in the u.s. pay an as-yet undetermined fine and have a clean law enforcement record. but what, what america of the lower chamber , the raucous caucus of house republicans . yesterday the gop's top vote counter, kevin mccarthy sounded cautiously ocht optimistic.
>> i wouldn't underestimate the house 's ability to pass an immigration bill .
>> but as nate silver points out, the vast majority or 142 of 232 republican house districts are less than 10% hispanic . given that, silver concludes that if house speaker john boehner abides by the dreaded hastert rule, house legislation overhauling the immigration rule will have to rely on mostly white districts.
>> i feel like once multiple times a week. and the question is, there seems to be an acknowledgement inside republican ranks that they have to do something on immigration reform . it's a demographic challenge, a social issue, an economic issue. you look at the political calculus, in numbers of the house districts, i have a hard time believing you're going to get republicans to go across the aisle and work with democrats on this issue and move the ball forward. but maybe i'm just a pessimist. are you an optimist?
>> maybe a little bit more. the number of districts in the figure, the number of republican districts that have more than 10% hispanic was actually a bigger number than i would have guessed, if i had been made to guess. yeah, they want to make sure that if there is a bill, that there won't be any actual voters coming out of it for a decade or far into the future. it will be ten years, it will be longer than that before any, before any undocumented alien is going to be able to actually vote.
>> cast a vote presumably for a democrat.
>> so the goal is to soften the hostility. but not actually go all the way. and i think this is one where the hastert rule could go by the boards, it's happened before . particularly when it's an extensiex existential issue.
>> the "new yorker," rick's paper, paper, magazine, we've been here before , writes william finnigan, president george w. bush had bipartisan support for comprehensive immigration reform in 2007 . but neither party was able to keep its legislators in line. jeff sessions was one of 37 republicans who abandoned his own president bush . after sessions told "times" that talk radio was a big factor in derailing the immigration bill . supporters in the bill wanted to pass quickly before rush limbaugh could tell the american people what was in it. i don't think things are that much different in terms of talk radio and how it can polarize people on this.
>> one thing that's different, it goes down to the number of 71, which was the margin of victory that the white house had with the hispanic voters. and you cannot look at that number any other way than this is a huge impediment to progress for the republican party . and i think everybody knows that. and you look what happened. after the election, lindsay graham called chuck schumer , let's get the band together, the gang of eight. this is the one place we're seeing cooperation.
>> lindsay graham and john mccain are senators, if you look at the naughty house republicans , they have, they have these districts where thus far west they have put their own re-election, their potential primary challenges ahead of the national party and its interests. i wonder whether this time it will be different. because as the mood nationally is different.
>> i think it is going to be different this time and for this reason -- because there's some other numbers that also matter in the larger conversation. one is the fact that when we talk about comprehensive immigration reform . we're not just talking about h 2 a and h 2 b visas. we're talking about larger comprehensive reform. it's not just about seasonal workers, but also about people coming to get advanced degrees and are forced now to go back to their home countries.
>> it's a huge deal in the tech industry. and in fact the cap on the h 1 b visas is lower now than it was in the late '90s, early 2,000s. the question is will that have an impact?
>> and i do think it will, because we're going to start seeing business involvement in a way we've never seen business involvement before. take a look at the tech communities and silicon valley . 52% of all new tech companies are started by immigrants to this country. 25% of all u.s. patents currently right now are being patented by immigrants. this is something that is incredibly important. not just in terms of the seasonal workers. but when you talk about larger companies, technology companies, silicon valley . this is a huge part of our national economy . so business is not going to let this fall through, either.
>> we talked about talk radio . i will play a choice piece of sound from ann coulter . the misinformation and stereotypes that need to be combatted in a short period of time if they're talking about getting this thing on the table in april. let's hear what ann coulter had to say about sucking off the federal government .
>> of course you start with enforcement first, but it has to be enforcement first, not legalize them first and then act as if, the one thing they want is citizenship. no, they want to live here illegally, it allows them to collect government assistance.
>> so ann koult certificate making the case that all of these illegal immigrants don't want to be become citizens. why would you want the right to vote. you just want to get federal government benefits. which isn't actually happening. but there's a perception out there that you're letting all of these people in, they're taking our social security , our medicare, medicaid. how do you change that in literally a couple of months? this is being echoed across the right wing media and in conservative circles and actually move the party forward from within.
>> you make a very good point. the capacity for house republicans to act irrationally in their own, not in their own interests is enormous. but this is an existential question for the party. and they have seen the ground move beneath their feet since the election and with the demographic changes. even jeb bush is probably thinking i should have written an e-book. so the good news here is there's this bipartisan group in the senate working in good faith. and actually like on their best behavior. and the white house is letting them do their work. but they've been clear that we'll put forward our own plan.
>> so you think the shame of going against what is actually a very goodwill effort on this might be enough to sway them?
>> i think there are at the end of the day smart political operatives that look at numbers and demographics and say look, guys, we've got to move on this or we'll be obsolete.
>> rick, this is interesting to me. they asked fox news asked republicans and democrats whether they favored or opposed a pathway to citizenship with back taxes and background checks. 82% of democrats supported a pathway to citizenship. 63% of republicans also favored this. the numbers there aren't a great mystery. broadly speaking, nationally speaking. it comes down to the individual house representatives.
>> there's two things that have to happen for this to go. you know one is the hastert rule has to go by the boards. because the what's an existential threat to the national republican party , the opposite can be an existential threat to an individual legislator who is worried about the challenge for his right. the other thing is the ann coulter clip you played was from fox news. fox news is another factor here. because if they go pro do something, and there are signs that they might, there's ann coulter on fox news, but there's a lot of other people on fox news saying the opposite. and rupert murdoch is fairly well, who is after all, an immigrant, is fairly well known, his views are fairly well known. and they're not those of ann coulter .
>> they are not those of ann coulter .
>> and you have to think that at some point, the smelling salts will be waved underneath -- they don't have to worry about primary challenges, right? this is just about the future of the conservative movement and the republican movement and maybe that will shake them out of the stupor and the wanton disregard for actual facts relating to immigration.
>> if you know that fox news has your back, it's not as important that rish limbaugh is sticking the knife in your front.
>> that's the ultimate test.
>> if you look at people who have started to peek their head out about 2016 already, whether it be jeb bush , marco rubio . there's something that a lot of them have in common -- they're all very much so in front on this issue. they get it.
>> we shall see. early april, people.
>>> coming up, you knew, you knew he loved clearing brush. but were you aware of his skills with an actual brush. we will discuss george w. bush 's lesser known artistic side. that's one of his pieces right there.
>>> but first we will talk with tai slasi about her new novel. [ woman ]