Yesterday, 10 FIRM leaders met with Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele to discuss immigration reform. The meeting was a direct result of a sit-in that activists staged on March 22nd at RNC headquarters. After the meeting, the leaders reported that Steele committed to:
…work with Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and the party’s leadership to enlist another Republican senator’s support for comprehensive and bipartisan immigration reform
However, only a few hours later, a spokesperson for the RNC issued a statement denying any such commitment and backing away from support of immigration reform.
From the New York Times:
Doug Heye, a spokesman for Mr. Steele, dismissed that account as “100 per cent inaccurate.”
Mr. Steele “makes it a priority to meet with different grassroots activists who are concerned with the direction of our country,” Mr. Heye wrote in an e-mail. “Today’s meeting was meant as an opportunity to listen to concerns and discuss the Republican Party’s strong support of legal immigration.
“Any claim that the RNC made any policy commitments is a clear misrepresentation,” Mr. Heye said.
April fool’s? Josh Hoyt of the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights had this to say about the mixed messages:
“Steele seemed legitimately moved by the need to broaden the GOP tent on this issue. He seemed to understand the political dilemma of continuing to offend immigrant and Latino communities by politicizing this issue rather than moving forward with practical and what he termed ‘holistic’ reform. But the sun didn’t even set before we got the message they were just kidding.”
The leaders present for the conversation insist that the meeting was, in fact, productive and feel it’s unfortunate that the RNC is choosing to back away from their commitments.
“It was a productive meeting,” said Pramila Jayapal, executive director of OneAmerica. “I’m surprised that Chairman Steele backed away from all of the next steps we outlined together.”
While it’s frequently been said that immigration reform will be a bi-partisan issue, this event continues to expose the willingness of some members of the GOP to use immigration as a wedge or a political football.
“The future of their party is not with extremist and often hateful anti-immigrant tea party activists. Up until yesterday, activists across the country were focusing their anger on the Obama Administration whose enforcement policies are tearing apart immigrant families and congressional Democrats who have shown very little leadership on CIR. But yesterday, we were reminded of another central problem: GOP obstructionism.”
Oh and if you’re wondering why conflicting stories are nothing new for Steele (or if you’ve been living under a rock), you can learn more here.