An immigration showdown in Cowtown
Sen. Patrick hedges his bets while the rejection of gay Republicans raises questions about exclusion of immigration hardliners.
The Republican Party of Texas’ faithful will gather in Fort Worth this week following one of the uglier primary seasons that many veteran political observers have witnessed. Their leadership will look not only to show unity ahead of a Texas general election with national implications, but – and this is no doubt more important to Quorum Report readers – delegates will set the majority party’s priorities ahead of the 2015 session of the Texas Legislature.
There are policy positions about abortion, guns, education and more to be addressed in the party’s platform, but perhaps no debate may be more explosive in the coming days than where the Texas GOP stands on immigration. The issue that most inflames the Republican base and has helped Sen. Dan Patrick rise to standard-bearer status is also the one that threatens GOP outreach to the growing and increasingly critical Latino population.
While Republicans as a whole are in that precarious position on immigration, Sen. Patrick personally finds himself in a similar quandary.
Some of Patrick’s biggest supporters, including Dr. Steve Hotze of Houston, worked hard and successfully in 2012 to insert language into the party’s platform supporting a robust guest worker program. The language has become known as The Texas Solution. Previously, the party favored enforcement-only when it comes to immigration laws; meaning they’d prefer deportation as the remedy for 11 million or so undocumented people in the United States.
Just two months ago, Patrick said he would oppose the guest worker language. Now that he’s made it through his primary, the GOP nominee for Lite Guv is working to soften his tone. Still, he answered a question about it on WFAA television on Sunday by first stressing he was against the platform change in 2012 and then saying the border must first be secured before anything else can happen. Star-Telegram columnist Bud Kennedy, who asked the question of Patrick, would later call the response a non-answer.
Meantime, the furor over the denial of a booth at the convention to gay Republicans has not gone unnoticed by immigration hardliners.
GOP Chairman Steve Munisteri has said the Log Cabin Republicans were denied a chance to purchase a booth because their position on gay marriage runs counter to the party’s platform, which states in part that homosexuality is “contrary to the fundamental, unchanging truths that have been ordained by God.”
The rejection drew the attention of a group called Protect Texas. They, like former RPT Chair Cathie Adams and others, are opposed to the current guest worker language and – in an interesting twist – the group has now suggested the exclusion of gay Republicans could lay the groundwork for GOP leadership to keep immigration hardliners from having their say at the convention as well.
On its Facebook page, Protect Texas said:
"What if there is a new policy proposed that a group cannot advocate against something evil that was voted on in the platform after 10:00 at night and with the connivance of the chairman, what kind of party do we have? If someone gets approval of Common Core, Agenda 21, open borders, homosexual marriage or any other egregious RINO plank into the platform, does this mean we are to be silenced because of our righteous indignation? Do not misunderstand. We should not let the Log Cabin Republicans have a booth at the convention on moral grounds, not because they oppose the platform."
So, the anti-immigration group has no problem excluding gay Republicans. No, they are merely concerned that if gays are silenced then they could be left out in the cold as well.
A party now consumed with arguments over which groups to exclude at its convention has leaders like Chairman Munisteri and Sen. John Cornyn who have argued the party must reach out to new “natural allies” in order to survive as a political force. Then there are those, like Sen. Ted Cruz and Tea Party leaders who contend that a commitment to ideological purity will restore the GOP’s ability to win national elections.
The events that unfold in Fort Worth this week will go a long way toward telling us which side is winning that argument.