Republican Party chairman Reince Priebus outlined a November immigration platform that emphasized the contribution of immigrants to economic growth, but downplayed opposition to President Barack Obama’s immigration-boosting actions.
“We need to make sure America remains a place where people aspire to work and dream and live,” Priebus said in a morning speech in Washington D.C. “Our country should be a welcoming place for those who want to come here and do it the right way,” he said in a speech that was intended to offer a GOP alternative to Obama’s policies.
But GOP populists pushed back, saying Priebus is not sufficiently anti-amnesty.
“The elephant in the room is amnesty for illegal immigrants, and if the Republicans fail to take a strong stand against it, they will squander an opportunity and continue to lose elections,” warned Jenny Beth Martin, head of the Tea Party Patriots, in a press statement.
“Americans oppose amnesty, and it is a winning issue for conservatives,” she said, and added a sharp warning to Priebus.
“There’s a new investment banker on Wall Street who could tell the Chairman about it [who] was House Majority leader until just a few weeks ago,” she wrote, about Rep. Eric Cantor who was rejected in June by his anti-amnesty primary voters.
Priebus also called for “an immigration system that secures our borders, upholds the law, and boosts our economy.”
But that “boosts the economy” line echoes the language used by President Barack Obama, progressives and business groups, said a GOP insider. Obama and his allies favored the Senate’s now-defunct 2013 immigration bill, which increased the inflow of foreign workers.
Priebus’ line should have said that “the GOP’s focus on immigration policy is getting out-of-work Americans back to work,” the insider said. But the GOP’s employer-focused language “risks keeping millions of blue collar voters at home on election day.”
Priebus’ policies are “not about depressing workers wages,” said a source close to the Republican National Committee. Controls on illegal immigration prevent “undocumented workers from depressing wages… meaning that it puts everyone on a level playing field and helps American workers,” the source said.
“We’re trying to improve economic growth for Americans, that’s very clear,” the source added.
Priebus also minimized the GOP’s potential opposition to the president’s end-of-year plan to grant work-permits to millions of illegal immigrants.
Obama’s unilateral action would jeopardize hopes to pass an immigration law, Priebus said. “His plan to make further [unilateral] changes to the system after the election will only make the fix [by Congress] harder” to accomplish, Priebus said.
However, Priebus didn’t try to rally swing-voters voters against Obama’s plan. He didn’t say that voters should support GOP candidates to block the amnesty, even though Obama’s planned unilateral amnesty is very unpopular.
It is so unpopular that it is also rejected by core Democratic constituencies, including almost 80 percent of younger voters, 75 percent of single women, 65 percent of Hispanics and 51 percent of blacks, according to the late August poll conducted by TIPP for Investors Business Daily. It is endorsed by only 22 percent of all respondents, and only 39 percent of blacks, 39 percent of Democrats, 26 percent of Hispanics, 18 percent of single women and 18 percent of high-school grads, said TIPP, which is the polling unit of TechnoMetrica.
Priebus also didn’t urge voters to rally against Obama’s decision to allow 130,000 Central American immigrants to file for green cards.
Instead, he merely criticized it. “The president’s plan to overlook the border crisis and act unilaterally to rewrite our nation’s immigration laws is unacceptable and it is unconstitutional,” Priebus said about Obama’s decision. He did not offer any counter-proposals, such as the repatriation of those migrants, despite the public’s strong opposition to illegal immigration.
Priebus’ call for more foreign workers was delivered in a speech that was intended to highlight the GOP’s shared political priorities on 11 different issues, including energy, economic growth, Obamacare and defense.
“These 11 principles unite us as a party and inform our policymaking, whether you’re running for governor in New England or Congress in the South or state house in the West,” he said.
However, most of his comments were vague generalizations, not specific policy commitment. None were visceral wedge-issues, similar to the Democrats’ favored issues, such as “War on Women,” “trans-vaginal ultrasounds,” “voter suppression,” abortion, police shootings, or the “1 percent.”
“These [GOP] principles cover 11 vital topics: jobs, spending, healthcare, our veterans, national security, education, poverty, values, energy, and immigration… [and] the first principle is about the Constitution,” he said.
But the RNC source said that Priebus can’t make policy commitments because he’s the chairman of the Republican National Committee, not a candidate for elected office.
Priebus also put immigration as the last of 11 listed GOP priorities.
That implied priority clashes with recent Gallup polls, which put immigration as the top GOP priority.
An August Gallup report showed that 22 percent of GOP voters and sympathizers says immigration is the most important problem facing the country. That was slightly ahead of the 20 percent who cited dysfunctional government, 17 percent who cited the economy and 9 percent who cited healthcare, including Obamacare.
“I don’t think any of the priorities are more important than the others… we’re just laying out the eleven principles that people are running on” the source said.