By Douglas Moser
---- — LAWRENCE — U.S. Senate candidate Gabriel Gomez, in a swing through the Immigrant City yesterday in an effort to expand the base and reach of the Republican Party into urban areas and to a more diverse population, said he backed immigration reform.
Gomez, the son of Colombian immigrants who served nine years in the Navy and is a private equity investor, stopped at Sunnyside Diner on Broadway and Tripoli Bakery on Common Street to introduce himself to voters here yesterday afternoon. He is one of three Republicans vying for the nomination to represent the party in a special election to replace former U.S. Sen. John Kerry.
He said he supports the outlines of a bipartisan immigration reform proposal taking shape in the Senate, backed on the Republican side by U.S. Sens. Marco Rubio of Florida and John McCain of Arizona, that grants undocumented immigrants legal status and allows undocumented immigrants without a criminal record to apply for citizenship.
“It’s not easy, but it’s not impossible,” he said.
First and foremost, though, Gomez, of Cohasset, said the government should put more resources and more people on the southern border to prevent more illegal immigration. Those who are here and without a criminal record could be given legal status and start at the back of the line for citizenship.
He said he would consider ideas for fines or other penalties, but did not take a stance on that. “The goal is to bring clarity (for immigrants) and to secure the border,” Gomez said.
Gomez’ campaign said he was standing by his comments on March 14 where he said he is not in favor of granting amnesty to undocumented immigrants, but did not specify the difference between amnesty and proposals that grant legal status and potential citizenship to those immigrants.
Michael Sullivan, the former U.S. attorney and Plymouth County district attorney, said he only supported granting illegal immigrants legal status, and that allowing for citizenship amounted to an amnesty.
“Amnesty is a word that is easily understood, and it means there’s no consequences. You’re being immunized,” Sullivan said yesterday. “It’s where you’re afforded all the benefits as if nothing happened, even pathway to citizenship. I think pathway to citizenship is amnesty.”
Aside from immigration, an important issue for many Hispanic voters and residents, Gomez said his party needed to go into urban areas to reach voters he said share his and his party’s support for individual freedom, smaller and effective government and personal responsibility.
“I think we can expand the typical map for the Republican Party,” he said. He recently made trips to Lowell, Holyoke and Somerville, and plans forays into Boston.
Nationally, the Republican Party recently released review of the party’s failures in the 2012 election came to somewhat similar conclusions, advocating embracing immigration reform and trying to appeal to women, minority and young voters.
Sullivan said reaching into urban areas is not a new idea, and pointed to his work and relationships in urban areas in Plymouth County when he served as district attorney.
“As a party we should make sure we’re doing more,” he said. “We should hit the concerns people face in cities, which are often the same as people in the suburbs, that their communities are safe, their kids have the opportunity to go to excellent schools and they have opportunities in terms of employment.”
Beyond those issues, Gomez said he favors a balanced budget amendment to the federal Constitution, term limits for representatives and senators in Congress and giving the president a line-item veto for individual budget items, a power many governors, including in Massachusetts, have. Currently, the president can only sign or veto an entire budget bill.
To improve the long-term federal debt picture, he favors gradually raising the eligibility age for Social Security and Medicare over nearly a quarter-century and means testing both programs, meaning people with higher incomes would received fewer benefits or pay more for those benefits.
Before Lawrence, Gomez stopped at Mann Orchards in Methuen and had lunch with business owners in Andover yesterday.
The campaign of state Rep. Daniel Winslow, R-Norfolk, the third Republican in the race, did not return a request for comment.
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