In 2001, Mississippi governor Hayley Barbour lobbied for legislation that would create a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants. He did so as part of his work for Mexico’s embassy, which was one of his firm’s clients. From Time’s Swampland blog:
Barbour’s work included “building support in the legislative branch for passage of a bill related to Section 245(i) of the Immigration and Nationality Act.” As part of that work, Barbour’s firm arranged meetings and briefings with “Senators, members of Congress and their staffs, as well as Executive Branch Officials in the White House, National Security Council, State Department, and Immigration & Naturalization Service.” Barbour’s firm charged Mexico $35,000 a month, plus expenses.
At the time, Mexico was seeking an extension of a provision that allowed undocumented immigrants living in the United States to receive legal visas or green cards without returning to their country of origin, provided they pay an additional fine. In practice, the provision generally helped out undocumented family members of legal immigrants or undocumented immigrants who were eligible for visas based upon certain job skills. Without the provision in place, undocumented immigrants who received legal papers had to return to their country of origin, for three or 10 years, before returning to the U.S. The Congressional Research Service estimated that an extension would benefit about 300,000 undocumented immigrants.
At the time of Barbour’s lobbying, the 245(i) effort was referred to as “mini-amnesty” in conservative circles.
Time also highlights remarks Barbour made to NRO’s Peter Robinson in an interview last year. In response to a question about illegal immigration, Barbour told Robinson that “common sense tells us we’re not going to take 10 or 12 or 14 million people and put them in jail and deport [them]. We’re not gonna do it, and we need to quit — some people need to quit acting like we are and let’s talk about real solutions.”