(CNN) – As political strategists dissect the shortcomings of the GOP in this year’s election, Carlos Gutierrez, the man who led Mitt Romney's outreach to Hispanic voters, said Republicans need to lead on immigration to facilitate economic growth.
“We can’t be the party of opportunity, growth, prosperity, entrepreneurship, small businesses and upward mobility if we are not the party of immigration. And that means that we have to lead on immigration,” Gutierrez said Saturday morning on CNN.
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“The Republican Party needs to be the party of immigration and, by the way, the Democrats haven’t proven yet that they are the party of immigration,” he said, pointing to the Republican-backed STEM Jobs Act - a bill that would grant as many as 55,000 visas to non-citizens who complete advanced degrees at U.S. universities in science, technology, engineering and math. The measure passed in the House on Friday.
The GOP hailed the bill as a boon for employers and the economy, but as the bill moves to the Democratic-controlled Senate, critics say it’s a piecemeal approach at best with political motives attempting to resurrect support from the growing population of Latinos in the United States.
Gutierrez said the ball is in the Democrats’ court to pass the immigration initiative.
The White House earlier this week said the Obama administration opposes the bill.
The law would allow U.S.-educated workers skilled in science and math to remain in the country and help build innovation, Gutierrez said.
Ten percent of the electorate in 2012 was Hispanic, and President Obama won the group in a landslide over Romney, 71% to 27% according to exit polls. Following the Republicans’ poor showing, Gutierrez announced a new super PAC, Republicans for Immigration Reform, aimed at creating a path to legalization for undocumented workers.
During the Republican primary season Romney took a far-right approach to immigration, even suggesting that undocumented workers “self deport.” Gutierrez told CNN after the election that his candidate “made mistakes,” but attributed them to a grueling primary process.
“We’re not the party of the rich; we want everyone to be rich. That’s the dream of the Republican Party. We cannot achieve that, we can’t grow without immigration,” he said.
CNN's Gregory Wallace and Deirdre Walsh contributed to this report.