At its Summer meeting in Boston last week, the Republican National Committee rejected the Attrition Through Enforcement policy established in its 2012 National Platform in favor of amnesty for illegal aliens. Since illegal aliens would be legalized but denied citizenship, the RNC’s spin suggests the new policy would cause no harm. But the work permits offered to illegal aliens cause the greatest damage. And since most voters do not support this shift in policy, the RNC has likely harmed itself.
The new policy, adopted as a resolution on August 16th, effectively replaces the immigration plank of the National Republican Platform adopted in 2012. The Platform called for an Attrition Through Enforcement approach to resolving the illegal immigration crisis instead of a legalization. It said, “We will create humane procedures to encourage illegal aliens to return home voluntarily, while enforcing the law against those who overstay their visas.” It also stated, “State efforts to reduce illegal immigration must be encouraged, not attacked,” which lent support to state laws in Arizona and elsewhere that embody the Attrition Though Enforcement approach.
Instead, the new resolution calls for five-year work permits (read legalization) for illegal aliens under the age of 21, and for two-year work permits for “foreign nationals” - an ambiguous phrasing that might include all other illegal aliens. The fact that neither group can petition for citizenship or sponsor family members does not diminish the damage done by adding millions more foreign workers to compete directly in the legal job market.
The resolution also calls for replacing the current legal immigration structure, which is both employment-based and family-based, with a merit-based system that “focuses on the needs of employers.” The resolution does not explicitly call for more legal immigration but does imply it. Many now calling for higher levels of legal immigration justify it by saying it will deter illegal immigration. The resolution says the same thing - “The best deterrent to illegal immigration is a well-functioning program for legal immigration, which we do not have.”
To be sure, the resolution plays up important enforcement measures, like the E-Verify program for employment-eligibility verification and the SAVE program for benefits-eligibility verification. I suspect the enforcement language, and the denial of citizenship, are intended to lull the reader into not objecting to the legalization or potential for higher immigration levels. That’s certainly the way RNC members have spun the resolution.
Texas Party Chairman Steve Munisteri said, “The key is hitting the high points and the high points are that that resolution no longer calls for the automatic deportation of folks who are here unlawfully.” The media, by the way, were mostly interested in whether a legalization without citizenship would hurt the party’s outreach efforts. On that point Munisteri said it would not “as long as it is made clear that we are not opposing people getting citizenship by going to the back of the line.”
Steve Duprey, an RNC member from New Hampshire, voted against the resolution but, from my perspective, not for the right reasons. “I would have worded it more carefully to accurately convey that we are against a blanket ‘amnesty’ but that we have faith that our Republicans in Congress are not creating one,” Duprey said. “The way I view it is that because of all the hoops someone has to go through: learn the language, pay taxes, have a job, not commit a crime, that it is not amnesty. Amnesty suggests forgiveness without consequences. Here, it is a pretty tough road.” Not really, but the road will be tough for citizens and legal immigrants forced to compete for jobs with work-permitted aliens, though.
As if to add insult to injury, prior to the resolution’s adoption RNC Chairman Reince Priebus condemned Mitt Romney’s use of the term “self-deportation” during his presidential campaign. Speaking with a group of reporters, Priebus said, "Using the word 'self-deportation' — it's a horrific comment to make. I don't think it has anything to do with our party. When a candidate makes those comments, obviously, it hurts us." I suspect he knew the RNC was going to vote on a resolution to throw out its self-deportation policy, but was it really necessary to slam the Party’s standard bearer and a concept central to the Immigration plank of the 2012 Platform?
Priebus went on to discuss the RNC’s position on immigration, saying, "Everything's not 100%. But you have to admit — the fact that the GOP is having a serious, high-level conversation about immigration reform is something that's very different. And it's something that we've embraced." Indeed. But is that what rank-and-file Republicans wants?
According to a NumbersUSA-commissioned August 8 poll of all likely voters, the RNC has moved in a direction most voters oppose, let alone most Republicans. That poll found that:
- Only 16 percent of likely voters said nearly all illegal aliens should get work permits;
- 75 percent said there are plenty of unemployed, less-educated Americans to fill certain jobs;
- Fully 68 percent said bringing in more immigrant workers would make it harder for unemployed Americans to find a job; and
- 87 percent said businesses should try harder to recruit citizens before seeking foreign workers.
It’s pretty clear that the resolution throws the Republican base under the bus and disenfranchises enforcement-oriented Independents and Democrats who cannot turn to the Democratic Party for protection.
The RNC apparently does not understand that voters see immigration as an employment issue. 20 million Americans want a full-time job but can’t find one. And yet the RNC advocates giving work permits to 11+ million illegal aliens and adjusting legal immigration to create more job competition for all Americans.
And they apparently don’t have a clue about why self-deportation is a fundamental notion in Republican thinking. Despite what those on the left suggest, Republicans have never advocated a mass round up and deportation of illegal aliens. Self-deportation is the most compassionate approach for upholding the Rule of Law under the lawless Obama Administration. That’s why it was written into the Platform.
I guess amnesty promoters at the RNC were eager to pass the resolution because Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives will soon fully engage in the immigration debate. But adopting this resolution was more than just impolitic. It added the RNC to the ranks of cheap labor peddlers that darken the halls of Congress.
The RNC members and Priebus must truly be blind to the anger this will generate among the rank-and-file. If the Party thought it was in a tenuous position before, it really should contemplate whether it will survive if Republican voters cannot count on officials to represent their interests.
Updated: Tue, Aug 20th 2013 @ 2:05pm EDT