State Republican officials from across the country on Thursday will formally break with the desire of President Bush and other top Republican leaders to include amnesty and other benefits for illegal aliens in immigration-reform legislation.
So far, 47 members of the 168-member Republican National Committee have signed a resolution that unequivocally opposes the Bush-backed policy that would grant legal residency to millions of illegal aliens.
“My signing on to this resolution simply reflects the fact that we in the party around the country fear — and feel that no one in Washington is listening to, or cares about, what we feel about issues and policy,” said Terry Strine, chairman of the Delaware Republican Party. “This lets them know.”
Legitimization of illegal aliens was a key part of the Senate bill, jointly fashioned by Republican Sens. John McCain and Jon Kyl of Arizona and Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, Massachusetts Democrat, that was defeated earlier this month.
The proposed RNC resolution does not address such issues as a temporary-workers program, the issuance of “green cards” and paths to citizenship — issues that helped derail the Senate bill — but instead calls for using all means necessary to secure the borders, including the regular Army as well as the National Guard.
The RNC’s Resolutions Committee is expected to approve the resolution at its Thursday session at the RNC annual summer meeting in Minneapolis-St. Paul, the site of next year’s Republican presidential-nominating convention. The resolution would then go to a floor vote on Friday by the full RNC membership, made up of an elected national committeeman and woman and the elected state chairman from each state and territory.
If passed, the resolution — already endorsed by state party chairmen from 14 states in the Northeast, Midwest, South and West — would put the party officially at odds with its national leadership, including a sitting Republican president, as well as the party’s Senate leaders and the national party’s general chairman, Florida Sen. Mel Martinez, handpicked for the office by Mr. Bush.
While Mr. Martinez had no comment on the resolution, Republican National Chairman Robert M. “Mike” Duncan said the resolution represented no break with the party’s Washington leadership.
“The RNC has twice adopted resolutions supporting comprehensive immigration reform that were consistent with the positions of the president,” he said in a statement relayed by his spokesman, Tracey Schmitt. “Included in those resolutions was support for securing our borders as a priority. Nothing in this proposed resolution is inconsistent with past RNC positions; rather, it re-emphasizes the need to make border security a top priority.”
Those who endorsed the resolution say it expresses the overwhelming view of rank-and-file Republicans.
“In my case,” Mr. Strine, the Delaware chairman, told The Washington Times in an e-mail, “this means that our Delaware Republican activists, volunteers, officeholders, etc., have overwhelmingly told me by e-mail, phone calls, and in person that they are opposed to amnesty, and to many other provisions of the McCain/Kennedy/Bush ‘comprehensive immigration-reform bill’ as Washington insiders have called it.”
“This is a common-sense approach that most Republicans support. A comprehensive approach proved to be too divisive,” said Saul Anuzis, Michigan Republican chairman.
Alec Poitevint, a longtime national committeeman from Georgia and normally a reliable ally of the president’s and the RNC leadership, said that the resolution “is about grass-roots Republicans willing to tell our leaders how we feel about what they should do first on immigration.”
“If some see in this that we aren’t toeing the line 100 percent, then so be it,” he said.
The resolution, fashioned by Arizona Republican Chairman Randy Pullen, asserts that the “ability of millions of unidentified persons to illegally enter and remain in the United States presents a grave risk to the sovereignty” of the nation and the American people.