GOP platform adopts Arizona law

With its official embrace of his immigration politics, the GOP is becoming the party of Kris Kobach

By Alex Seitz-Wald
Published August 22, 2012 2:54PM (EDT)
Kris Kobach    (AP/John Hanna)
Kris Kobach (AP/John Hanna)

In addition to a plank calling for a total ban on abortion with no exceptions (which Democrats have quickly dubbed the Akin Amendment), and another taking a hard line against Shariah law, the Republican Party platform this year will most likely include a plank calling for more Arizona-style immigration laws. The draft platform, which still has to be approved next week by the full convention in Tampa, includes language stating that laws like Arizona’s SB 1070 should be "encouraged, not attacked,” and calls for federal authorities to drop challenges to the immigration laws.

The platform measure was introduced by Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, the prolific anti-immigration activist who authored Arizona’s law, advised several other states on their immigration laws, and helped create Mitt Romney’s immigration policy. He is also behind the anti-Shariah plank. "I was pleased at how overwhelming the majorities were, it was a voice vote and I think there were maybe 80 percent supporting it ... The Republican Platform is now very strongly opposed to illegal immigration," Kobach told the Hill after the platform committee voted to add the language.

The party has always been favorable to Arizona’s approach to immigration, which seeks to make life in the U.S. so terrible for undocumented immigrants that they “self-deport,” as Romney said, but it’s noteworthy that the party has officially adopted the stance and enshrined it in their governing platform. A hard line on immigration has increasingly become a litmus test for Republican politicians. Among other problems, Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s star fell during the Republican primary because of his slightly less-than-draconian approach to immigration. The platform will likely rankle the tiny handful of leaders in the party like former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who have been pushing the party to be more embracing of Hispanic voters. Bush called SB 1070 the “wrong approach” and said his children may be profiled by Arizona police (his wife and their mother is Mexican-American). But Bush and his allies have been vastly outgunned in the party in recent years.

The news comes just as the Romney campaign has set a hugely ambitious goal for November: Capture 38 percent of the Hispanic vote. That’s a step up from John McCain, who won 31 percent of the bloc in 2008. And it will be an even tougher haul for Romney than for McCain. Romney has easily the most restrictive immigration stance of any Republican presidential nominee in the past 75 years and has consistently polled in the low 20s among Latinos. An NBC/Wall Street Journal/Telemundo poll from July found Obama beating him 67 to 23 percent among Latinos, and that was one of the smaller polls of the bloc. Another poll of Latinos from the same news organizations comes out later today. Romney's strategy is based on the assumption that Latino voters care almost exclusively  about the economy, and very little about immigration. Unfortunately for him, polls show that’s not true.

Since the primary, where Romney had the most restrictive stance of any serious candidate, he’s tried to avoid talking about immigration as much as possible. Notice that he said nothing last week when Obama’s new policy granting temporary legal status to young undocumented immigrants went into effect.

The adoption of the policy comes even as other states have had very mixed experiences after adopting harsh immigration laws. In Alabama, for example, the law has caused enormous unintended problems, including major economic fallout, and some of its sponsors have since recanted their support. South Carolina and Utah have also passed laws modeled on Arizona’s.

Behind all these laws is Kobach. Between his leadership on immigration, and now his new franchise in Shariah, the GOP is increasingly becoming Kris Kobach’s party. James Bopp, a longtime GOP operative and RNC committeeman who chaired one of the platform subcommittees, agreed. "Of the amendments that Kris either made or spoke in favor of, each and every one was adopted. He had a significant impact on the formulation of the platform. People respect his views and listen to him carefully on these issues,” Bopp told the Hill.

Alex Seitz-Wald

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Hispanics Immigration Immigration Reform Republican National Convention