Immigration Fight Simmers Ahead of Texas GOP Convention

TEXAS GOPNote: This story originally appeared on The Quorum Report. Join us there daily for coverage of Texas politics and government. 

HOUSTON – Business interests here in Southeast Texas and elsewhere are working to marshal their forces ahead of what could be a bloody fight at the Republican Party of Texas convention in June over where the party stands on the thorny issue of immigration. Two years ago – after a bitter late night floor fight – the party platform was modified to include support for a guest worker program, which business leaders were happy to see included.

Now, some Tea Party activists and others are laying the groundwork for the party to go back to supporting an enforcement-only approach to immigration, according to draft language obtained by Quorum Report.

Texas Eagle Forum President Cathie Adams told QR on Monday that the people who pushed the party to support a guest worker program were “putting the cart before the horse.” She argued that the RPT is in a precarious position because of it and a hardline stance is what’s needed heading into the 2015 legislative session. “We’re not supporters of guest workers,” she said. “Elected officials keep talking about how we have to secure the border first,” Adams said. “Let’s get back to fixing the problem.”

Under the draft language floated by Adams, a guest worker program has been deleted and instead the Republican Party would “reject any and all calls for blanket or incremental amnesty and encourage the enforcement of existing state and federal laws regarding border security, national security, immigration and employment.” It also says “illegal employment and illegal immigration have a negative effect on American workers actively seeking jobs, and taxpayers who are saddled with paying illegals’ healthcare, education and welfare benefits.”

As our readers remember, the 2011 legislative session was a particularly nasty one when it came to immigration. That year, lawmakers emotionally debated a ban on so-called “sanctuary cities” for undocumented immigrants. That proposal did not pass. The 2013 session saw none of that and many have said the reason it was left alone was the Texas GOP’s more nuanced stance on the issue.

This year, Sen. Dan Patrick promises to bring back the “sanctuary cities” debate if he is elected Lt. Governor. He has also stressed the need, as he sees it, to do away with in-state tuition for undocumented immigrants. That’s despite the fact that one of his biggest supporters and financial backers, Dr. Steve Hotze of Houston, worked with others like Houston insurance broker and longtime Republican activist Norman Adams to insert the guest worker language into the RPT platform in 2012.

Adams, an insurance agent who has served on the RPT Platform Committee multiple times, said reverting to a position similar to the one held by the party prior to 2012 would be “kicking the can down the road.” The party’s position at the time, Adams said, was simply to list the problems presented by illegal immigration while offering nothing in the way of a fix. “It was a continuation of what everyone agrees is de facto amnesty,” Adams said.

Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson was the only elected officeholder to argue in favor of the guest worker language when it was adopted. As a former candidate for Lite Guv, Patterson pointed out on Monday that every one of the four current and former candidates in the race have agreed that it’s not practical for the United States to deport all of the people who are in the country without legal status.

After hearing the news that Cathie Adams and others want to go back to the party’s old position, Patterson said he wasn’t sure whether he would be at the convention this year making the same case he did two years ago. He did, however, say that he’d continue to “vocally support” the current language.

“Come up with a solution for what we do with the 12 million people who are here illegally and then we can talk about changing the party platform,” Patterson said.

Copyright March 17, 2014, Harvey Kronberg,, All rights are reserved. Reprinted with permission.

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