How one Republican is trying to stop Kris Kobach
Brad Bailey convinced Republicans to adopt a national guest-worker program into their party platform.
One Republican is determined to not allow the Kris Kobachs of the world to define the GOP’s stance on immigration.
That’s a daunting task. Kobach’s fingerprints are all over the Republicans’ official immigration policy. The party platform calls for crackdowns on in-state tuition benefits for undocumented immigrants, mandates that employers use the E-Verify system to check the legal status of employees, and decries federal lawsuits that weaken Arizona-style immigration laws.
That tough language was included at the behest of the Kansas secretary of state and well-known immigration hardliner. It triggered another round of negative news coverage of the GOP’s immigration policies at a time when Mitt Romney is struggling to break through to Latino voters, who largely support more accommodating immigration policies and judge the tone of the immigration debate as a sign of respect to the community.
But Brad Bailey, a Texas restauranteur, was able to sell the party on including a moderate measure: a national guest-worker program. The GOP platform includes language that provides for the “the utility of a legal and reliable source of foreign labor through a new guest-worker program.”
Remember Bailey? If not, here is a refresher. Bailey and his allies were able to convince Texas Republicans to back a national guest-worker program on their official party platform. He said at the time that he would attempt to do the same at a national level. And he succeeded in getting the platform committee, which votes on the language, to approve it.
Bailey, the head of The Texas Immigration Solution advocacy group, says that figures such as Kobach are tarnishing the Republican brand.
“I think Kobach and [Arizona] Gov. [Jan] Brewer and Sheriff Joe [Arpaio] are hurting the Republican Party brand,” he told Univision News. “The rhetoric and aggressive language are doing no good. Our immigration policy is broken as a nation. But I believe in addressing the situation and fixing the situation in a positive way.”
Bailey said that Kobach “didn’t like the guest-worker program.” At the platform committee meeting Tuesday in Tampa, Kobach argued that undocumented immigrants take jobs from Amercians.
“We recognize that if you really want to create a job tomorrow, you can remove an illegal alien today,” Kobach said. “That is the way to open up jobs very quickly for U.S. citizen workers and lawfully admitted alien workers.”
But Bailey said that’s flat wrong, arguing like business owners like himself would like a legal means to hire immigrant workers to perform jobs that Americans won’t do.
A virtual outsider in national Republican circles who was attending his first convention, Bailey describes his sales pitch as a scene out of Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.
“[Kobach] was able to use his Ivy League education to sway people. I had to sit in the back of the room and literally run down committee members as they were running into the bathroom to tell them about what we accomplished in Texas,” he said.
While Bailey acknowledged that Kobach was a political force before the platform committee, he questioned Kobach’s so-called expertise on immigration issues as a Yale-trained attorney.
In addition to getting the tone wrong, Bailey said that Kobach doesn’t understand the practical problems with mandatory E-Verify. Bailey says he uses the system at his restaurant and finds it cumbersome and ineffective.
“Kris Kobach has never used E-Verify but he talks like he is the authority on E-Verify,” he said. “Let’s not just claim that E-Verify is the Holy Grail.
But a guest-worker program isn’t a Holy Grail either. Critics believe that allowing workers to temporary remain in the U.S. legally could perpetuate the same problem of immigrants overstaying visas. Others worry it could create a permanent underclass that could be the target of exploitation.
In today’s Republican Party, however, voicing support for such a program is a big step forward, according to Bailey.
“It’s never been endorsed by the Republican Party, now it is. And that’s exciting,” he said.
The ultimate goal for Bailey, besides getting on the platform committee himself, is to make the Republican Party’s immigration policy more sensible.
“I believe the immigration issue has become a third-rail political issue within our party. A lot of people behind closed doors tell me we can’t deport 11 million people and we have to deal with this in a reasonable way. But whenever they get a camera or a microphone in front of them, the language changes,” he said.
“But I believe we are getting there on the national level.”
(Photo: Texas GOP Vote)