Carlos Gutierrez, who served as Commerce secretary in President George W. Bush's second term, was one of that administration's leading proponents of immigration reform. Born in Cuba, he was a top adviser to Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney on Hispanic outreach. Before his tenure at Commerce, Gutierrez was chairman of the board and chief executive officer at Kellogg. Edited excerpts of his interview with National Journal follow.
NJ Describe the super PAC you are helping to start to support Republicans who favor immigration reform.
Gutierrez We believe that if the Republican Party truly is the party of opportunity, of prosperity, of the ability to go from poverty to wealth, then we have to be the party of immigration. We're going to start [fundraising early this] year. We want to have it up and running and full-speed ahead by 2014.
It will offer political cover to Republicans who support immigration reform. I remember Newt Gingrich's comment during the primaries about [legalizing undocumented] people who have been here 25 years. He was criticized for that.
NJ Your candidate, Mitt Romney, criticized him.
Gutierrez Yes. I still don't know where "self-deportation" came from. I think it was [New Mexico Gov.] Susana Martinez who talked him out of that. She said she didn't even know what that means. Everyone quotes the polls that say immigration is not the top issue for Hispanics and that Hispanics are more attracted by an economic message. What people are missing in the psyche of Hispanics is that criticizing immigrants, whether they are undocumented or not, the language and the body language suggests to Hispanics that Republicans don't like them.