Thursday, June 09, 2011

Texas GOP quarreling over "sanctuary cities"

I have blogged previously about the ridiculousness of Mark Jones' premise that the defeat of "sanctuary cities" legislation in the regular session was a 'strategic victory' for Rick Perry. It seems that there are some prominent Republicans who are trying desperately to validate Jones' argument. Read this from Julian Aguilar at the Texas Tribune:

A series of email exchanges between Republican Party boosters and the office of Gov. Rick Perry indicate some conservatives believe passing the contentious “sanctuary cities” bill may cripple efforts to recruit more Hispanics to their ranks.

The correspondence signals a potential rift between Perry, who appears intent on addressing immigration issues during the current special session, and some of the party’s backers as rumors surrounding a possible Perry presidential run continue to swirl.

“At the end of the day you should understand that Hispanic voters will not support a party that wants to deport their mother and father,” Norman Adams, the co-founder of Texans for Sensible Immigration Policy and a member of Texas GOP Vote, a conservative website, wrote to Ray Sullivan, Perry’s chief of staff. The messages are part of an email exchange that began June 2 and were obtained by the Tribune.

Dr. Steve Hotze, the chairman of Conservative Republicans of Texas, is included in the exchanges and urges Perry and Sullivan to reconsider. Hotze contributed at least $60,000 personally and at least $640,000 via his PAC to GOP House and Senate candidates in the last election cycle.

“It seems that we should focus on recruiting Hispanics to the Republican ranks," he wrote. "It appears this bill might accomplish just the opposite.”

Clicking on Dr. Hotze's name above will carry you to his immigration video, where he makes the case against harsh anti-immigrant rhetoric by the GOP. You should go and watch it. Here's a brief excerpt:

We cannot turn our back on immigrants and their families with anti-immigration rhetoric and legislation. If we do so, then we're not just sending the wrong message to the Hispanic community, but we're also denying our own conservative values and beliefs.

It's difficult to believe that Hotze is a voice of reasonable moderation in this regard. More from Aguilar at the Trib ...

“When it comes to the Sanctuary City bill, we believe you should thank God for the opposition from our police chiefs and sheriffs across the state. Its failure to pass was a blessing for you and for Texas Republicans,” Adams wrote Perry on June 2, before the governor added the legislation to the call. Speculation that Perry would add the item had already gained momentum by then, however, and it is also the day state Sen. Tommy Williams, R-The Woodlands, filed SB9, which includes the legislation.

“The irony of this whole thing is that the governor had a winning ticket if he wants to run for president" with the success of the regular session, Adams said today in an interview. “He avoided Arizona-style legislation, which has caused nothing but an economic disaster [there], in his own state.”

The problem with that, of course, is that no single issue -- not the state budget cuts, not abortion, nothing -- incenses the Texas TeaBagging base like non-citizen immigrants. You don't have to listen for very long to hear it: Ill Eagles are responsible for everything that is wrong in the world: the budget shortfall, exploding Medicaid expenditures, overcrowded school classrooms, global warming, the Astros' losing season, you name it. And any public forum that includes Texas conservatives commenting on current events quickly reveals this weird alternate reality where only mass deportation of all undocumented people will solve every single problem facing the Great State.

It is an unrelenting, unyielding caterwaul.

Dr. Hotze speaks an inconvenient truth for Texas Republicans, but as an electorate they are no more likely to heed his warning than they were to split their tickets in 2010. They will only support candidates that demand the borders sealed by the federal government as well as deportation. Not so much penalties for employers who hire the undocumented, mind you; that goes against the governor's "Texas Miracle" economy (as well as the wishes of his megadonors Bob Perry and Bo Pilgrim).

Anyway, that's Rick Perry's stated strategy, and he's sticking to it. Today. Keep in mind that these are also the people telling us he's not running for president.

Sullivan said today that Perry will not get distracted from what he views as political theater.

“What Dr. Hotze and Mr. Adams talk about is politics. We are talking about public safety and policy,” he said. “We are not looking at this through a political lens. This is ‘How do we make Texas streets and neighborhoods and individuals safer?’”

He also said the issue would not damage the party’s efforts to recruit Hispanics.

“There is a broad agreement throughout the state, regardless of geography and political persuasion, that law enforcement should be encouraged to do their jobs to the best of their abilities,” he said. He added that a lot of the criminal activity the bill seeks to address occurs in “urban centers and minority communities,” and pointed out that every Hispanic Republican in the Texas House supports the sanctuary cities legislation.

Sullivan also dismissed Adams’ emails that insist a majority of law enforcement officers are opposed to the bill.

“We have been hearing for well over a year from police officers and police associations who have seen their colleagues killed by individuals in the country illegally,” he said.

My first observation here is that Aguilar has an extraordinary and unusual amount of back-channel access here: the e-mails, the lengthy response from the governor's spokesperson. That's an awful lot of on-the-record commentary. If GOP legislators actually don't want to pass this bill they will have an extremely difficult path to walk to do so; for one thing they are much more vulnerable to backlash in 2012 from the base than is Perry.

Paul Burka has previously documented Rick Perry's flip-flop on sanctuary cities -- he was for them before he was against them -- as well as the odd sight of Republican legislators celebrating after the legislation's demise in the regular session.

How is the GOP going to defeat sanctuary cities again in the special, thus preserving the 'strategic victory' for Perry and saving the long-term future of the RPT, mollifying Hotze and Adams but enraging the base? Or does Perry just intend to go for the short-term political gain, exerting his will to get the bill okayed and damn the long-term consequences?

It looks to me like he's betting on the latter, and so am I. But I cannot say I will be surprised if the bill dies another strange procedural death at some point, enabling every Republican except the Teas to breathe a sigh of relief.

How do Iowa Republican primary voters poll on illegal immigration? That might tell us a lot about whatever hidden agenda the governor is operating from in this regard.

Update: Related reading ...

Hotze: Hispanic Christians Will Be "Our Natural Allies Against the Democrats and Muslims" (Right Wing Watch)

Should Perry be thankful for unanswered prayer? (Lisa Falkenberg, Houston Chronicle)

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