Saturday, June 9, 2012
Capitol Inside: Texas Republicans abandoned their hard-line stance on illegal immigration
FORT WORTH - Texas Republicans abandoned their hard-line stance on illegal immigration Friday night when they approved a state party platform proposal that calls for a national guest worker program as a practical solution to a problem that's mushroomed beyond the ability of current law to resolve. Delegates at the state GOP convention in Fort Worth had geared for a late-night fight on the less stringent language on illegal immigration that business interests pushed at the party's biennial gathering two years ago before conservative activists killed the platform provision there. But Republicans who favor a temporary worker program pitched it at the convention this weekend as a way to alleviate labor shortages in Texas through a system that pays for itself while being subject to tough standards for identification, eligibility and monitoring. While the state GOP blames the federal government for a porous border, the new platform acknowledges that the mass deportation of an estimated 11 million people in the U.S. illegally isn't a realistic option. The statement of principles and values portrays the worker program as a middle ground between blanket amnesty and the more restrictive position the state party had embraced until now. The worker program is part of a package of immigration policy revisions that the platform refers to as The Texas Solution. The platform includes proposals that demand stronger federal enforcement of border security laws, technological improvements to social security cards and clarified laws on citizenship requirements and qualifications. The relaxed approach on an issue that's been a top priority for GOP voters in Texas and other border states is the latest evidence of a slight pro-establishment shift in the state party leadership at a time when Republican voters have appeared to be moving more to the right. Conservatives who've joined forces under the tea party label expect to have a dramatic impact on Republican primary runoff elections in late July in races for the U.S. Senate, Congress, the Legislature and other elected offices. While the immigration proposals were the product of compromise negotiations before emerging from the state GOP platform committee with unanimous support, Texas Republican Chairman Steve Munisteri will be in position to receive the brunt of the credit and blame in light of the sway he wields over the process in which the plan was developed and refined. The vote by delegates on the convention floor in favor of the immigration plank came a year after conservative state legislators attempted without success to pass a strict illegal immigration crackdown plan similar to the controversial law that;s been on the books in Arizona for the past two years.