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New TV Ads Tout Immigrants' Value to Economy

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A series of pro-immigration television ads is beginning to hit the air. The ads, produced by a group called Mexicans and Americans Thinking Together, argue that immigration — even illegal immigration — is necessary for the prosperity of America. Scott Simon talks to Lionel Sosa, the organization's executive director and a longtime Republican strategist.

SCOTT SIMON, host:

Pro-immigration side of the debate is being prepared for television. Now, this ad is already aired in Northern Virginia.

(Soundbite of TV ad)

Unidentified Man: This is Riverside, New Jersey. It accomplished what some citizens want done today. They drove out undocumented workers by passing a law penalizing anyone who hired them. It worked. But with so many people gone, their economy suffered.

SIMON: That ad was produced by a group called Mexicans and Americans Thinking Together, which is producing and promoting the series of ads that argue that immigration - even illegal immigration - is necessary for the prosperity of America.

Lionel Sosa is the organization's executive director. Mr. Sosa has a long history as a media strategist, supporting, advising and working for many Republican candidates.

He joins us from the studios of KJZZ in Tempe, Arizona. Mr. Sosa, thanks so much for being with us.

Mr. LIONEL SOSA (CEO, Mexicans and Americans Thinking Together): Thank you, Scott, for having me. I appreciate it.

SIMON: And this is the first in the series of ads that are planned, I gather.

Mr. SOSA: Yes. This ad ran a couple of months ago. And it was extremely successful; actually help defeat some of the anti-immigration folks that were out there.

SIMON: Mr. Sosa, who is Mexicans and Americans Thinking Together? That - which is a nice way of saying, where do you get your money.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. SOSA: Well, we're a group of people. Some of us are Americans. Some of us are Mexicans. Many of us have dual passports and dual citizenship. And we're people who love both countries.

SIMON: Could you be more specific about who's contributing money to the Mexicans and Americans Thinking Together?

Mr. SOSA: Well, you know, the folks behind it aren't the type of people that want to take a lot of credit, but they are businesspeople from the U.S. and businesspeople people from Mexico. Others are people that are in business and…

SIMON: Well, I mean, at the risk of embarrassing their modesty, I wonder if you could identify, just so we'll know your sources of support.

Mr. SOSA: Sure. All you have to do is look at our Web site, matt.org, and you will see the folks that are on the board of directors, and you will see that all of them are contributors to this.

SIMON: You, of course, Mr. Sosa, I'm sure has had to contend with the argument that there's a problem when you make unauthorized workers legal. And people have even cashed back and suggested that President Reagan was wrong in their view to extend the amnesty that he did in the 1980s. They say this rewards criminal behavior, and more to the point, even encourages more people to come over illegally.

Mr. SOSA: Well, you know, encouraging criminal behavior, how interesting is that? Senator Mitchell held this big hearing on baseball players using steroids. And what was his recommendation? Let's forgive them for the good of the game. That's amnesty, you know? We have presidential pardon; that's amnesty. We talk ourselves out of a traffic ticket. That's amnesty. Amnesty is something that we do everyday. But somehow or other when you say that these unauthorized workers are - what we're really doing is we're taking a group of people and treating them in a different way.

SIMON: As we know that you have a long-time status as a Republican Party supporter and activist, and specifically, in behalf of this President Bush -George W. Bush - who tried to get some kind of amnesty reform package passed, may I ask - not to put you on the spot, Mr. Sosa - do you still consider yourself a Republican?

Mr. SOSA: Oh, absolutely. I've been a Republican since age 13, when we got our first television set, and I saw the Republican National Convention on television. And President Eisenhower was talking about personal responsibility, about opening the door for opportunity and that people could really take care of themselves without a lot of government intrusions. I still believe that but, you know, right now, a lot of the folks in my party are just not doing the right thing. And I certainly don't agree with most of the candidates for president out there. They're being very anti-immigrant.

You know, if we look at our plate of food, we see fruits and vegetables, we see meat. Well, you know, these are the folks that are processing the meat, picking the fruits and vegetables. They are all around us. But, some of us don't really see them and certainly don't see their benefit.

SIMON: Lionel Sosa, head of Mexicans and Americans Thinking Together. Thank you so much for being with us.

Mr. SOSA: Thank you very much, Scott. Pleasure.

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