Ever the player in Idaho and national politics, Frank VanderSloot is throwing his weight behind helping undocumented workers gain citizenship.
In a conference call Wednesday, VanderSloot encouraged other business leaders to support a Senate bill introduced earlier in the day. He spoke to representatives of 21 business groups and organizations in Idaho and elsewhere, including chambers of commerce and trade associations.
VanderSloot, the CEO of Melaleuca, a direct marketing company in Idaho Falls that sells health and personal-care products, said he hadnt read yet the 844-page bill but spoke on the assumption it provided a chance to attain citizenship. He allowed reporters to listen to the call.
VanderSloot said he was swayed in part by Latino immigrants who told him painful stories of crossing the border illegally to improve conditions for their families.
They of all people appreciate what it means to be American, he said.
My position is we ought to secure the borders, VanderSloot said. But no fence will be tall enough or wide enough. Theres not enough razor wire to put on top of it or under it, because (those illegally entering the country) love their kids. They want a better life.
However, VanderSloot said he did not support amnesty, allowing the estimated 11 million undocumented workers to jump ahead of immigrants already seeking citizenship.
The bill was proposed by the Senate Gang of Eight, four Republicans and four Democrats.
The House has it own bipartisan Gang of Eight, including Idaho Republican Raul Labrador.
Labrador and fellow members released a statement Wednesday saying they would propose a similar reform bill soon.
We believe we will soon agree on a reasonable, common-sense plan to finally secure our borders and strengthen our economy with a tough but fair process that respects the rule of law so immigrants can contribute to our country, they said.
VanderSloot has ties to high-ranking GOP leaders. He donated more than $1 million to Mitt Romneys presidential campaign and served as the 2012 GOP presidential candidates national campaign finance co-chairman.
The path to citizenship talk is a far cry from Romneys platform, which touted securing the borders and encouraging undocumented workers to self-deport.
But VanderSloot said many Republican leaders didnt agree with that. He said he has spoken one-on-one with Idaho representatives and senators and with Romney. Many Republicans have been singing a different tune behind closed doors than in public, he said.
I dont think attitudes of Republicans changed one bit, he said during the call in response to a question from the Idaho Statesman. Maybe now they are gaining some courage to get behind something theyve been behind all along but didnt have the courage to take a stand on.
Zach Kyle: 377-6464. The Associated Press contributed.