Amidst process, immigration looms large
CHARLOTTE, N.C.—As members of the Republican National Committee left the Queen City following the long-anticipated re-election of RNC Chairman Reince Priebus and other party officials, one thing was clear: their three-day conclave was one dominated by process rather than policy.
The most controversial portion of the first RNC meeting since the disappointing results in November dealt with “inside baseball”—namely, undoing a change in party rules permitting the RNC to revisit their regulations for presidential nomination in the intervening four years before the next election. The committee members decided to punt on this rules change (which was made at the national convention last summer) and will address it at their next meeting in April. In addition, party leaders took pains to emphasize that their new panel on “Growth and Opportunity” will not attempt to change the party’s conservative message, but focus exclusively on mastering modern techniques to communicate that message.
But as much as the RNC meeting appeared to be “policy free,” there was one key issue that kept coming up in talks with committee members: illegal immigration, and how Republican candidates can address it best.
“The biggest problem we have with this issue is how we present ourselves, and it should not be that much of a problem.” Colorado State Party Chairman Ryan Call told Human Events. Call added that he had re-read party platforms going back more than a century and “as far back as 1864, the Republican platform called for a ‘liberal and just policy’ that allows people who come to America access to the American dream.”
Call freely admitted that the statements of recent Republican candidates on how to deal with those who are in the U.S. illegally has hurt the party among those from other countries who came to America legally. Recalling the third-party candidacy for governor of his state two years ago by vigorous illegal immigration foe and former Rep. Tom Tancredo (who was embraced by most Republicans after their nominee fizzled over discrepancies in his resume), Call said: “We took a lot of heat for [Tancredo’s] rhetoric.”
As for what the party can do on this issue, the Colorado party chieftain said: “It’s not my place to dictate legislative policy and, in our state, I tend to leave that to our legislative leaders. So I will trust our leaders on the national front, such as [Florida Sen.] Marco Rubio.”
Michigan’s GOP National Committeewoman Terri Lynn Land agreed, saying “we had some discussion of this on our Resolutions Committee, but most of the Republicans I talked to want to see what Sen. Rubio has to say and do on this issue.”
The concept of addressing the issue of immigration and how best to admit people wanting to come to the U.S. in new terms was discussed by several participants at the meeting. Stephen Fong, a leader of Pacific American Republicans, pointed out to Human Events that “while Mitt Romney was hurt by his remark about ‘self-deportation,’ he won applause when he spoke of his support for people being permitted to come to the U.S. and eventually achieving citizenship on the grounds of family re-unification. If you are from another country and have a family member in the U.S., then you can move here and apply for citizenship. That was a much softer position and it helped.”
Fong added that among Asian Americans in Nevada, Romney drew 47 percent of the vote—much higher than his national average in that community.
Shawn and Michele Steel—husband and wife who are respectively Republican National Committeeman and state Board of Equalization member from California—have been working to bring together Asian American Republicans to have a voice in forging a party position on immigration.
“My parents came in on work permits and we all came here legally,” said Michelle Steel, born in South Korea and now the highest-elected Asian American Republican in the U.S. “But we also recognize that a lot came here illegally and it is impossible to deport them. So we have to find some kind of answer that deals with the present reality.”
That is about as it went when it came to addressing the specifics of an issue that Republicans have had major difficulties with. To say the least, it will be newsworthy to learn if and how Republicans have progressed on a solution when their national committee convenes again in April.