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The Republican National Committee may be pushing an immigration policy overhaul, but on Monday, two key Senate Republicans warned against taking on the issue just for the sake of political expediency.
Senate Judiciary ranking member Charles E. Grassley, R-Iowa, and Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., both said immigration is an important issue to tackle but that efforts should not be rushed because of political calculations. Both also noted that if a policy rewrite passes, Republicans would still need significant outreach to win over Latino voters.
“I think you’ve got to think in terms beyond immigration. I think that that only opens the door. I don’t think it wins Hispanics or minorities over,” Grassley said of the RNC’s postelection report — released Monday — that endorsed passing comprehensive immigration legislation.
The “autopsy report” was designed to reinvigorate and refocus the GOP after losing both the presidency and the chance to retake the Senate majority in 2012.
“I think what we have to do is relate to [Latinos] on the bigger issues, how entrepreneurship lifts people out of poverty; it’s not government programs,” Grassley added.
Grassley also said the issues related to family values, a strong work ethic and religion resonate with both Republicans and Hispanics. “We’ve got a lot of work to do beyond that,” he said.
The RNC autopsy report did not recommend specific policy positions, but it advised: “We must embrace and champion comprehensive immigration reform. If we do not, our Party’s appeal will continue to shrink to its core constituencies only. We also believe that comprehensive immigration reform is consistent with Republican economic policies that promote job growth and opportunity for all.”
That vague endorsement appeared to be a nod to the significant disagreements, especially among Republicans, as to what should go into an immigration proposal. Some favor a path to citizenship; others argue that would reward illegal immigrants who have broken the law.
Sessions, who has long been a critic of efforts to provide what he calls “amnesty” to undocumented immigrants, took issue with the bipartisan group of eight senators who are meeting behind closed doors to draft immigration legislation.
“If comprehensive means we wait on eight self-appointed senators to meet in secret and come out and lay down a plan, and if you don’t vote for it, you’re against immigration reform, then I think that is improper,” Sessions said. He said he would prefer to pass immigration changes piecemeal, rather than all at once.