Fmr. governor of Puerto Rico: Republican Party must lead on immigration reform

Rick Klein, Olivier Knox, Richard Coolidge, and Jordyn Phelps
Power Players

Top Line

Luis Fortuño, former governor of Puerto Rico, is a rare breed--or so they say--in the current American political landscape: he's a Latino Republican. And, when it comes to immigration reform, Fortuño says the Republican Party needs to take the lead in fixing the country's immigration system.

"Clearly the immigration system is broken, it's not working well," says Fortuño. "Of course we need to protect our border, on the one hand. On the other hand, we have to realize that there are 11 million people working and living among us. We need to make sure they can continue to work and live among us one way or another."

Fortuño emphasizes that, in order for immigration reform legislation to appeal to the Latino community, it must provide a path for those illegal immigrants already living in the United States to remain here legally. But he stopped short of saying an explicit path to citizenship must be part of an immigration bill.

"The most important aspect for our community regarding this immigration bill is allowing for those 10 to 11 million people who are here illegally to be able to work here, live here, contribute to our society, and have their children live the American dream," says Fortuño.

The Republican Party lost ground in the 2012 election among the American-Latino community in part because of the party's tough stance on immigration, but Fortuño says he's confident Sen. Marco Rubio [R-Fla.] and others are helping to change that by pushing for comprehensive immigration reform.

"Certainly Sen. Rubio has a major role in the realignment of our party...I envision that he will have a role as we move forward in the 2014 cycle, and certainly during the presidential cycle."

While Fortuño points to Rubio as a strong leader for Latino interests in the Republican Party, he says the GOP's diversity deficit is not limited to Latinos.

"We need more Hispanic and Asian-American candidates, more female candidates, more young candidates. Having said that, our candidates must show up at events all throughout the cycle, election cycle, at different events for each of these communities just to show respect and understand the needs of those communities as well," Fortuño says.

To hear more about Fortuño’s prescriptions for the Republican party, as well as his thoughts on Puerto Rico's chances of becoming the 51st state, check out this episode of Top Line.

ABC's Eric Wray, Alexandra Dukakis, Wayne Boyd, and Bob Bramson contributed to this episode.