Conservative gets immigration plank

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Pennsylvania Rep. Melissa A. Hart will lead the Republican Party platform subcommittee that will tackle politically sensitive immigration issues, The Washington Times has learned.

The Hart appointment comes amid growing complaints among many in the Republican Party that President Bush’s proposed immigration plan would reward illegal aliens in the hope of getting more Hispanics votes for him in November.

Mrs. Hart is known among colleagues for her tough stance on immigration issues.

The platform — a statement of principles nonbinding to the party’s presidential candidate — is being prepared for approval by the party’s presidential nominating team in New York. It will call, for the first time, for a constitutional amendment that defines marriage as between a man and a woman.

These revelations, from a confidential source with intimate knowledge about the committee, come in response to public criticism by some conservatives that the platform will be weak on issues dear to the factions that make up the party’s electoral coalition.

A conservative activist expressed surprise and pleasure when informed of the Hart appointment.

“I’m still getting up off the floor. This is great for those of us interested in a more moderate immigration policy,” said Craig Nelson, director of Friends of Immigration Law Enforcement.

Mr. Nelson said Mrs. Hart “is much more closely aligned with the American people on immigration than Washington lobbyists representing corporations that profit from the cheap labor provided by excessive immigration — and than those aligned with the Karl Rove and the Wall Street Journal extremists.”

Some party members tie Mr. Bush’s immigration policy to Mr. Rove, one of the president’s chief political advisers. They say it panders to Hispanics by offering a form of amnesty to illegal aliens. The issue has split the party.

While many have said that the Republican Party has no future unless it boosts its 35 percent share of the rapidly growing Hispanic voting bloc, others argue that such a policy alienates the party’s voter base and many citizens of Hispanic origin who are advocates of law and order.

The latter were further enraged when The Times reported last week that millions of illegal aliens would be free from arrest and deportation, have access to tax-deferred savings accounts and Social Security credits, and get unrestricted travel to and from their home countries under Mr. Bush’s guest-worker program.

The Wall Street Journal, meanwhile, long has been calling for no restrictions on immigration. Its editorial page advocates making the United States a nation without borders to let the forces of supply and demand freely determine who enters seeking work.

Last week several Republicans associated with the platform committee described an effort by the Bush camp to head off any language that might seem “unwelcoming” to immigrants or intolerant of homosexuals.

But to the consternation of many party activists and interest-group leaders nationwide, the Bush campaign and convention officials have been exceptionally tight-lipped about the names of those selected to lead the platform subcommittees, as well as the 110 delegates who will make up the platform committee.

“Unlike the Democrats’ platform, which doesn’t at all reflect the positions of their party’s candidate [John Kerry], our platform is going to reflect our party’s principles and [the policies of] President Bush,” said the source close to the committee.

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