Last Friday the Republican National Committee (RNC) passed a resolution opposing a path to citizenship for the 11 million people living among us without immigration status. Viewing these individuals as gate-crashers or overstayers, the resolution claimed that a majority of Americans “oppose any form of amnesty that would propose a pathway to citizenship for illegal aliens.” Inexplicably, however, the RNC nonetheless offered this amnesty-lite proposal:
RESOLVED, that the Republican National Committee calls upon the President and Congress to create a new work permit program that will allow foreign nationals who are currently in the country and have not violated any other laws of the U.S. to come forward and register and be allowed to remain and work in the U.S. The work permit will not result in application for citizenship nor any family members entering the U.S. and will require renewal every two years upon proof of continuous employment with no more than two (2) months per two (2) year period unemployed or convicted of a crime.
The resolution provides no explanation for this change of tune. Rather than espousing the usual shibboleth that immigration amnesty would reward those who flouted the “rule of law” in the U.S., the RNC posits this puzzling twist:
Americans recognize that for many of those seeking entry in our country, the lack of respect for the rule of law in their country of origin has meant economic exploitation and political oppression.
Does this newfound RNC solicitude for the “rule of law in their country of origin” suggest a contorted rationale for amnesty-lite? The RNC seemingly implies that since these “illegal aliens” (their phrase, not mine) are victims of economic exploitation and political oppression, caused by a lack of respect for the rule of law in their homelands, American immigration law should be amended to go just a tad easier on them here. It’s hard to know for sure, because the resolution doesn’t explain the change of heart.
Also befuddling and unexplained is the resolution’s support for a “merit system utilizing the newest technology that focuses on the needs of United States employers and matches the economic and cultural attributes that each immigrant possesses to those needs.” Since when do Republicans give a hoot about matching the “cultural attributes” of would-be immigrants and foreign temporary workers to the needs of American employers? There’s a dog whistle in there somewhere, but it’s hard to discern. Are “cultural attributes” a code for “English-only” speakers from abroad? Again, it’s anyone’s guess.
One thing is clear, however, and that’s self-deportation or “attrition through enforcement” — the immigration policy of the GOP’s last presidential nominee — is now officially viewed, at least by RNC Chairman, Reince Priebus, as “a horrific comment to make” and “not something that has anything to do with our party.”
So, in sum, the RNC’s policy seems to be that:
- Two-year renewable (but non-amnesty) work permits should be granted to “illegal aliens” who broke our immigration laws because they are victims of lawbreaking abroad that led to their economic exploitation and political oppression (but only so long as they stay mostly employed and otherwise remain crime-free);
- Legal immigration that matches the economic traits of qualified foreign workers and the needs of U.S. employers should be expanded, especially if the workers’ “cultural attributes” are similarly aligned; and
- Self-deportation is horrific and should not be supported as policy by red-blooded Republicans.
Is this kind of petard-hoisting an illustration of Bobby Jindal’s allusion to the “party of stupid” or is it Chris Christie’s “focus on winning again”? Whatever the underlying rationale for the RNC’s muddled messaging, the Republican Party needs to develop a more appetizing and inviting policy, for even a majority of its traditional stalwarts, senior citizens, believes it’s too extreme on immigration.