Continued from page 1

“When you were a kid, your mother would say it is not what you said, it is how you say it that counts, and sometimes we are not very eloquent in how we say things,” said Ron Kaufman, an RNC member from Massachusetts.

Steve Duprey, an RNC member from New Hampshire, said he voted against the resolution because it could be “misinterpreted.”

“I would have worded it more carefully to accurately convey that we are against a blanket ‘amnesty’ but that we have faith that our Republicans in Congress are not creating one,” Mr. Duprey said. “The way I view it is that because of all the hoops someone has to go through: learn the language, pay taxes, have a job, not commit a crime, that it is not amnesty. Amnesty suggests forgiveness without consequences. Here it is a pretty tough road.”

Republicans want to avoid a repeat of the Immigration Reform and Control Act that President Reagan signed in 1986. The act granted amnesty to millions of people living in the U.S. illegally. Elected officials now are struggling to find common ground on how to handle the estimated 11 million illegal residents.

The issue dogged Mitt Romney in the 2012 presidential race, where he tacked hard to the right in the Republican primary and embraced the notion of “self-deportation.”

Mr. Obama issued an executive order months before the election that said his administration would stop deporting young illegal immigrants who had been brought to the U.S. as children by illegal immigrants.

Mr. Obama went on to win 71 percent of the Hispanic vote four years after capturing 67 percent of the Hispanic vote against Republican rival Sen. John McCain of Arizona in 2008.

On Friday, Florida Republican Party Chairman Lenny Curry cringed when he was asked about the language of the RNC resolution.

“The Republican Party is having a debate right now, our elected officials are having a debate, not everybody agrees, but there are people out there trying to fix it and that is the positive thing and I am going to let our elected officials figure that out,” Mr. Curry said.

Texas Republican Party Chairman Steve Munisteri said the resolution represented the competing views in the party.

“The key is hitting the high points and the high points are that that resolution no longer calls for the automatic deportation of folks who are here unlawfully,” Mr. Munisteri said.

Asked whether the “amnesty” clause could hurt the party’s outreach efforts, Mr. Munisteri said it would not “as long as it is made clear that we are not opposing people getting citizenship by going to the back of the line.”

“Messaging is as important as the message, or people won’t ever hear your message,” he said. “If you just say we will never make people citizens under any circumstance because they are from a certain country or something like that, then that would hurt the cause. So, how you explain this is very important.”