Republican delegates on the party's platform committee hammered out an immigration plank calling for tough border enforcement and endorsing self-deportation.
Republicans have adopted a party platform on immigration that would require employers nationwide to verify workers’ legal status and deny federal financing to universities that allow illegal immigrant students to enroll at lower in-state tuition rates.
In their debates this week in Tampa, Fla., over the party platform, Republican delegates hammered out an immigration plank calling for tough border enforcement and opposing “any forms of amnesty” for illegal immigrants, instead endorsing “humane procedures to encourage illegal aliens to return home voluntarily,” a policy of self-deportation.
The party’s platform stance comes as Mitt Romney has been moving to court Hispanic voters before the general election. During the nominating fight last year, he embraced the concept of “self-deportation,” saying he would veto legislation known as the Dream Act, which would give legal status to illegal immigrants who came to the United States when they were children.
But recently, Romney has sought to soften his stand, saying he would consider a Dream Act for illegal immigrants who serve in the military.
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The party platform offers no support for that proposal.
A number of immigration amendments were offered by Kris Kobach, a conservative who is secretary of state of Kansas and was an author of laws in Arizona and several other states that crack down on illegal immigration.
Kobach proposed the plank calling for mandatory use by employers of a federal electronic system, known as E-Verify, to confirm the legal immigration status of new hires.
“If you really want to create a job tomorrow, you can remove an illegal alien today,” Kobach said.
At his urging, the delegates also adopted calls to complete a double-layer border fence, to end federal lawsuits challenging state enforcement laws like Arizona’s, to deny federal funds to sanctuary cities and to deny federal funds to universities that allow students who are illegal immigrants to enroll at lower, in-state tuition rates.
Washington is one of 10 states that allow illegal immigrants to pay in-state tuition if they can prove they went to high school in the state. In 2010-11, 557 such students submitted affidavits to receive in-state tuition, 85 percent of them to attend community and technical colleges.
In explaining his platform amendments, Kobach said: “These positions are consistent with the Romney campaign. As you all will remember, one of the primary reasons that Gov. Romney rose past (Texas) Gov. (Rick) Perry, when Mr. Perry was achieving first place in the polls, was because of his opposition to in-state tuition for illegal aliens.”
Kobach also quoted positions from the Romney campaign website calling for completion of a high-tech fence and ending “magnets” for illegal immigration, a term Romney used in primary debates to explain his opposition to granting in-state tuition to illegal immigrants.
The changes were approved with no dissent by the platform committee. The full platform document will be submitted to the Republican convention for approval next week.
Asked for comment, a Romney campaign adviser said: “The platform is a RNC document, not a Romney for President document.”
The distance — at least on paper — between the Republican Party and mainstream Hispanic organizations was highlighted Wednesday when the National Hispanic Leadership Agenda, a coalition that includes 30 of the country’s largest Latino groups, issued a list of proposals it will promote at the Republican and Democratic conventions.
The coalition endorsed passage of the Dream Act for all illegal-immigrant students and “comprehensive immigration reform” to give millions of other illegal immigrants an “earned path to legalization.”
The Hispanic groups want to “demilitarize” the southwest border and curtail state and local enforcement of immigration laws.
Although Hispanics generally favor Democrats, they have shown signs of cooling on President Obama, who pledged to pursue immigration reform as a candidate in 2008 but who only recently has drawn accolades from immigrant-rights groups by taking executive action to halt deportations of hundreds of thousands of young illegal immigrants who came here when they were children.
Both campaigns are scrambling to court Hispanics because of their potential clout in swing states, including Florida, Nevada and Colorado.
Seattle Times higher-education reporter Katherine Long contributed to this report. Material from the Los Angeles Times is included in this report.