CA GOP moderates immigration tone

ImmigrationHoping to satisfy restive constituents without handing Democrats a cudgel, the California Republican Party made moves designed to project a more moderate tone on immigration.

The new posture became official through a delegates’ vote at the state party’s semiannual convention in Anaheim. Carefully calibrated wording produced an amended statement that drew its share of criticism but ultimately passed, as the Los Angeles Times reported:

The changes say Republicans “hold diverse views” on “what to do with the millions of people who are currently here illegally.” The wording of the amendment was tweaked after a Saturday committee meeting, which used the phrase “otherwise law-abiding folks” instead of “people.” Although the new language emphasizes opposition to “amnesty,” it removes the statement that “allowing illegal immigrants to remain in California undermines respect for the law.”

Although the momentum for the changes was driven by a years-long disagreement within the party over how fiercely to oppose illegal immigration, the direct impetus came from a relatively new source: Donald Trump. Marcelino Valdez, the party’s regional vice chairman in Fresno, told the Times he spearheaded the initially proposed changes in order to formally counteract Trump’s recent remarks on the issue.

Calling Trump “an entertainer,” Valdez called the revised wording “a common-sense approach” that shows Republicans are “far from” anti-immigrant, according to the Orange County Register.

A play for votes

But Valdez left no uncertainty about the party establishment’s ambitions. “We’re absolutely trying to reach the Latino vote,” he added. GOP strategists in California have watched with alarm as polling reflected Trump’s negative impact on its view of the party. “Trump stands apart from the field,” as MSNBC observed. “A recent MSNBC/Telemundo/Marist poll of Latinos found that 70 percent of respondents had a negative view of Trump – far more than any other candidate – and 65 percent felt he was hurting the GOP’s brand.”

Although some strategists have counseled that Republican presidential candidates can succeed at the national level without making a strong play for Latino voters, that argument carries less weight in the Golden State, where California Republicans looking to expand their base often see little alternative. “Republican registration has fallen to 28 percent statewide,” the Sacramento Bee noted.

Drawing contrasts

For that reason, Carly Fiorina’s rising political stock has rekindled their hopes in shaking the state party loose of Trump’s perceived influence. In the recent presidential debate hosted in Simi Valley, “Fiorina took a measured and careful approach to how she answered questions about immigration,” the International Business Times observed. “Largely avoiding the issue as a matter of policy, she navigated between attacking Trump and President Barack Obama, making no mention of her thoughts on what to actually do with the millions of immigrants currently in the country without legal documentation.”

During that debate, Trump, by contrast, “reiterated that he would build a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border, then deport ‘a lot of really bad dudes in this country from outside,'” according to the Bee, which added that Democrats have shown little hesitation in trying to tie the California GOP to Trump’s most aggressive remarks on on the issue. Trump’s latest debate comments, however, seemed to represent a shift away from insinuations he made earlier in the campaign that every immigrant who entered the U.S. unlawfully would be deported if he were elected president.

Chasing attention

Analysts remained unsure, however, whether voters would pay a great deal of attention to the intra-party struggle over the finer points of its preferred immigration policy. Prof. Jeff Jarvis of Cal State Fullerton told Southern California Public Radio that, most likely, the party’s rejiggered language was “getting drowned out in the conversation by Trump and the national party moving to the right on immigration.” With presidential candidates like Marco Rubio, Jeb Bush and Ted Cruz still in the hunt, however, that dynamic could eventually change as quickly as Republican primary voters’ preferences have already shifted to date.



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