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GOP Debate: Compassion Makes a Cameo

11/29/2011 03:46 pm ET | Updated Jan 29, 2012

Compassion made a cameo appearance at the November 22 CNN debate between GOP candidates. All the more stunning was that the compassion was for undocumented immigrants who reside in our nation.

There are four reasons why we saw this change:

1. In order to win the general election, the GOP needs to secure at least 40% of the Latino and immigrant vote. "Vote for me, I want to deport your mother," is not a vote-getter when it comes to New American voters.

2. We can't spend our way out of our immigration mess. Every year we spend billions upon billions of dollars on the mass deportation pipe dream which voters realize is a fiscal fantasy, a moral outrage, and a waste of valuable law enforcement resources.

3. Morally and economically, a reformed immigration system is necessary to heal our nation. Faith leadership is clamoring for a policy solution that eases the pain and suffering of their congregations while agricultural employers watch produce rot in the fields due to a shortage of skilled farmworkers.

4. Voters want solutions. The Pew Research Center found that a strong 72% - 24% majority of Americans "favor providing a way for illegal immigrants in the U.S. to gain citizenship, if they pass background checks, pay fines and have jobs." In fact, a majority of two of three Republican groupings, "main street Republicans" and "Libertarians" also support immigration reform, while "staunch conservatives" split 49% - 49%.

As compelling as these reasons may be, the GOP has a real problem when it comes to convincing voters - whether they are business, faith or community - that they want an immigration solution.

The problem is Alabama.

Over the last few weeks the crisis in Alabama has expanded well beyond the thousands of kids and families who fled the state after the court decision allowing much of HB56 to go into effect.

Now, family farmers who have tilled the Alabama soil for generations are speaking out against HB56 and the Republican leadership who passed the law. Last week, a manager for a large Mercedes Benz manufacturing plant in the state was arrested under the law because he didn't have his driver's license with him.

Under GOP leadership, HB56 has pushed families into the shadows, weakened the agricultural sector and threatened future manufacturing investments in the state.

Not exactly a record to run on if you are a GOP hopeful.

Perhaps the GOP field should consider the principles behind the Utah Compact. Federal solutions, law enforcement, family, economy and a free society -- principles leading conservatives in Utah endorsed, and leaders across the country are quickly gravitating towards.

So, it was good to see a bit of compassion added to the immigration debate last week. But, compassion does not change the facts on the ground; and it is the facts people care about.