Di­vi­sive im­mi­gra­tion bill stokes GOP anger

The Washington Times Weekly - - Front Page - By Ralph Z. Hallow

The bi­par­ti­san im­mi­gra­tion bill be­ing pushed by the White House and Sen. Jon Kyl, Ari­zona Repub­li­can, is frac­tur­ing rather than “sav­ing” the Repub­li­can Party na- tion­ally, ac­cord­ing to an­gry party lead­ers and new poll find­ings.

Ari­zona Repub­li­can Party of­fi­cials have re­ceived “hun­dreds and hun­dreds of calls, e-mails and let­ters from Repub­li­cans an­gry about the

bill,” state party Chair­man Randy Pullen told The Wash­ing­ton Times.

“They were say­ing, ‘I am go­ing to reg­is­ter in­de­pen­dent and not give you any more money’ — and that’s the base of our party say­ing that,” Mr. Pullen said.

Repub­li­can of­fi­cials also crit­i­cized Sen. Mel Martinez, Florida Repub­li­can, as be­ing out of touch for his re­cent re­mark on CNN that the im­mi­gra­tion bill “could be the sav­ing of the Repub­li­can Party.”

Chuck Laud­ner, the Iowa Repub­li­can Party ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor, told The Times that Mr. Martinez is “dead wrong be­cause the bill doesn’t save the Repub­li­can Party — it drives a wedge right through it.”

“I don’t think the im­mi­gra­tion bill is go­ing to save the Repub­li­can party,” Cindy Costa, the Repub­li­can na­tional com­mit­tee­woman from South Carolina, told The Times. “If you un­der­mine your base as this bill does, I don’t hardly see how that can save the GOP.”

Mr. Martinez was hand­picked by the White House to be gen­eral chair­man of the Repub­li­can Party be­cause he agreed with the Bush ad­min­is­tra­tion’s goal of reach­ing out to the na­tion’s grow­ing His­panic elec­torate.

“I like Mel, he is a great guy, but his po­lit­i­cal in­stincts aren’t real good — my Florida friends tell me they’re call­ing him ‘Amnesty Mel’ down there,” Mr. Pullen said.

The mea­sure, whose chief spon­sor is Sen. Ed­ward M. Kennedy, Mas­sachusetts Demo­crat, would pro­vide il­le­gal aliens a way to gain le­gal sta­tus and even­tu­ally cit­i­zen­ship. It is “a Demo­cratic bill,” Mr. Pullen said.

“The White House and Jon Kyl are giv­ing Democrats ex­actly what they need — cover,” the Ari­zona of­fi­cial said. “Democrats aren’t go­ing to be out there alone, giv­ing amnesty to 20 mil­lion il­le­gal aliens.

Mr. Pullen also crit­i­cized Ari­zona Sen. John McCain, a lead­ing con­tender for the Repub­li­can pres­i­den­tial nom­i­na­tion, for his spon­sor­ship last year of a mea­sure that would have en­abled il­le­gals to gain cit­i­zen­ship.

“McCain’s po­si­tion last year was the re­verse of what it should have been,” Mr. Pullen said.

Mr. Kyl said he’s com­mit­ted to the bi­par­ti­san deal in the Se­nate, and that his only fear now is that Democrats will pull the bill too far to the left for him to sup­port it.

“I have al­ready taken the po­lit­i­cal hit,” Mr. Kyl said. “I have al­ready made my de­ci­sion to sup­port this leg­is­la­tion, and I will sup­port it to the end if it is not sub­stan­tially mod­i­fied. My com­mit­ment is firm, and I don’t want the sit­u­a­tion to oc­cur where I have to pull my sup­port.”

The di­vi­sive ef­fect of the bill is il­lus­trated by a Ras­mussen poll re­leased May 23 that found that 26 per­cent of re­spon­dents fa­vor the Se­nate im­mi­gra­tion plan. Op­pos­ing the bill were 47 per­cent of Repub­li­cans, 51 per­cent of Democrats and 46 per­cent who be­long to nei­ther party.

Stephen Di­nan con­trib­uted to this re­port.

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