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At Hispanic Chamber, GOP Lines Up For Immigration Reform

WASHINGTON _ Republican officials told the Latino business community of their hearty support for immigration reform Wednesday, the same day Democrats filed a petition to force a vote on the issue.

Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., told attendees at the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce’s Legislative Summit in a keynote speech that immigration reform legislation is "not a question of if, but when.”

But Democrats said 273 days have passed since the Senate advanced a comprehensive immigration reform bill. Tired of waiting, they filed on Wednesday a discharge petition that, if signed by a majority of House members, could push the bill to the floor. There is little likelihood the tactic will succeed, however.

The GOP officials spoke to a segment of the Latino community more likely to vote Republican. Before Ryan’s speech, Reince Priebus, chairman of the Republican National Committee, said immigration doesn’t have an easy solution. “We have to do something,” he said.

Priebus pledged the party’s support for Latinos saying, “the Hispanic community benefits when both parties are fighting for the Hispanic vote.”

Texas Republican Sen. John Cornyn, who voted against the Senate’s comprehensive immigration bill, kicked off the summit with emphatic support on immigration reform, citing the human toll inaction has inflicted. Cornyn defeated tea-party primary challenger Rep. Steve Stockman in early March and faces token Democratic opposition in November.

Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, R-Fla., who is one of the staunchest advocates for reform, referred to the immigration debate as an “800-pound gorilla" and warned further inaction is “a disservice to millions of families.”

After the speeches, Andre Pineda, an attorney, was skeptical that anything could get accomplished in "such a fractured political environment."