- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 24, 2004

NEW YORK — The Republican Party platform draft strongly supports President Bush’s “guest worker” plan that critics within the party say amounts to amnesty for illegal aliens, The Washington Times has learned.

The draft will be debated here this morning, several days before the opening of the Republican National Convention, by 26 handpicked members of the Republican National Convention subcommittee that deals with immigration, led by Pennsylvania Rep. Melissa A. Hart.

The draft’s immigration section, titled “Supporting Humane and Legal Immigration,” backs the president’s case for giving some illegal aliens temporary legal status under a guest-worker program, a position vehemently opposed by immigration-control forces in the party.

“A growing economy requires a growing number of workers, and President Bush has proposed a new temporary workers program to match willing foreign workers with willing U.S. employers, when no Americans can be found to fill the jobs.

“This new program would allow workers who currently hold jobs to come out of the shadows and to participate legally in America’s economy,” the draft said of the guest-workers plan Mr. Bush announced in a White House speech in January.

The draft language goes on to say that the plan “would allow men and women who enter the program to apply for citizenship in the same manner as those who apply from outside the United States.”

While offering temporary amnesty in his January speech, the president went on to say he opposes amnesty.

The draft repeats that claim, saying flatly that the proposal “does not grant amnesty, which we oppose, because it would have the effect of encouraging illegal immigration and would give an unfair advantage to those who have broken our laws.”

Meanwhile yesterday, both foes and proponents of abortion rights and same-sex “marriage” threatened mayhem yesterday if they don’t get their way in the GOP’s platform.

The Bush campaign has been trying to avoid a public fight over core Republican positions on social issues, but such a battle now seems inevitable, officials close to the platform process said.

Mr. Bush’s representatives in the platform-writing process are determined that the national party not appear either insensitive or wishy-washy on abortion and same-sex “marriage.”

Pro-choice groups are demanding that “inclusive big-tent language” — specifically saying that Republicans have differing views on both abortion and homosexual rights — be inserted into the platform. But social conservatives say such a platform change would provoke open conflict at the beginning of next week’s convention.

“The bottom line is that if they move one inch away from the current platform language and toward this ‘inclusive’ plank, there will be an uproar,” said Connie Mackey of the Family Research Council (FRC).

Mrs. Mackey said the public protest would come from “those in the party that have counted on President Bush to be pro-life, pro-family, pro-marriage and not try to find common ground with those who hold opposite views.”

Conservatives appear more numerous and better-organized at the convention than their opponents. FRC said it is planning to place in the hotel rooms of the more than 4,000 Republican delegates copies of its latest book, “Outrage: How Gay Activists and Liberal Judges Are Trashing Democracy to Redefine Marriage.”

Both sides express confidence that they will prevail and have been lobbying Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist of Tennessee, the platform committee chairman, and Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, the chairman of the subcommittee that deals with the two social issues.

Pro-life forces say they won’t compromise on keeping the pro-life language of the platform, essentially unchanged since 1980. And Mr. Frist has said the platform is likely to include a statement of support for the constitutional ban on same-sex “marriage” that Mr. Bush has endorsed.

But advocates of the “inclusive” platform language say they have Mr. Frist on their side and that they have never had a better shot at getting what they want.

“We’ve never had a seat at the table before. I think the convention planners are trying to reach out,” said Jennifer Blei Stockman, national co-chairman of the Republican Majority for Choice.

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