BOSTON — Republican leaders spent a good chunk of their summer meeting talking up their revamped Hispanic outreach efforts and then turned around and approved a resolution that could make it harder for the party to close its deficit with the nation’s fastest-growing minority group.
The Republican National Committee passed a resolution on the third and final day of its meeting that touched on some of the thorniest issues in the immigration debate, calling for the completion of a double fence along the southwestern border and saying that most Americans “oppose any form of amnesty that would propose a pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants.”
“That is very bad language that only alienates Latinos even more,” said Alfonso Aguilar, who ran the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services’ office of citizenship under President George W. Bush.
Mr. Aguilar, who now serves as executive director of the Latino Partnership for Conservative Principles, said the wording could reinforce the notion that Republicans are tone-deaf on the subject.
The party, Mr. Aguilar said, could learn from Rep. Bob Goodlatte, the Virginia Republican who says some illegal immigrants should have the chance to go to the back of the line and through the normalization process.
“What we oppose is a special path to citizenship,” Mr. Aguilar said.
Polls show that Hispanic voters support a pathway to citizenship. For President Obama and congressional Democrats, the path to citizenship is nonnegotiable as a part of immigration reform. Republicans are divided on the issue.
The RNC resolution also calls for Congress to create work permits for the children of illegal immigrants who were brought to the U.S. through no fault of their own and for foreign nationals living in the U.S. who are working and have not broken other laws.
Before the vote, Ada M. Fisher, national committeewoman from North Carolina, said the RNC should not support the creation of guest-worker permits because that amounts to a path to citizenship.
Bruce Ash, national committeeman from Arizona who helped author the plan, countered that “this resolution is not a pathway to citizenship.”
The RNC-endorsed systems would allow some young illegal immigrants brought to the U.S. as minors the chance to obtain work permits that must be renewed every five years as long as they prove they are employed or attending school. Foreign nationals would have to renew their permits every two years.
The RNC weighed in on the issue in March when it released a postelection Growth and Opportunity Project report that said the party must be careful to “craft a tone that takes into consideration the unique perspective of the Hispanic community” and that the party must “embrace and champion comprehensive immigration reform.”
Since then, the immigration debate has raged on Capitol Hill, where the Democrat-controlled Senate passed, with the help of 14 Republicans, a bill that would bolster border security before granting some illegal immigrants a path to citizenship.
Sally Bradshaw, one of the authors of the RNC report, has signed on as an adviser to Americans for a Conservative Direction, the Mark Zuckerberg-backed organization pressing for immigration reform and a path to citizenship.
RNC members here acknowledged that the immigration resolution could cause the party some political heartburn.