The Democratic National Committee insisted Saturday that efforts to secure the nation’s borders shouldn’t shut out an estimated 11 million illegal immigrants and their families already living in the U.S.
The DNC wrapped up its fall meetings in Phoenix by unanimously passing three resolutions related to illegal immigration, showing clearer unity on the issue than sharply divided Republicans.
The main document calls for more effective border security but also says immigration reform should allow illegal workers to "earn the rights and responsibilities of U.S. citizenship."
The DNC stance echoes bipartisan legislation cosponsored by Sens. Ted Kennedy, D-Mass, and John McCain, R-Ariz., as well as House Republicans Jeff Flake and Jim Kolbe, both of Arizona. That plan would allow immigrants who pay a $2,000 fine and back taxes to eventually seek permanent residency.
DNC Chairman Howard Dean also touched on immigration at the end of a fiery, 20-minute speech outlining the party’s agenda for the 2006 elections.
Dean said he believes Republicans will try to use immigration as a "scapegoat issue," similar to state gay marriage ballot measures in 2004.
But Dean confused President Bush’s proposals for a guest worker program with criticism from other Republicans who believe even a temporary visa for undocumented immigrants would reward illegal behavior.
Dean suggested Bush wants to round up and deport all illegal immigrants. In truth, the Bush plan would allow a guestworker program. But immigrants would have to return to their home countries when their work visas expire after six years.
A second resolution adopted Saturday condemns a proposed Colorado constitutional amendment that would deny illegal immigrants access to all nonemergency government services not mandated by federal law. The Colorado proposal was inspired by Arizona’s Proposition 200, which state voters approved in 2004 by a wide margin.
The DNC actions conflict with prevailing attitudes in much of Arizona. But Harry Mitchell, the Arizona Democratic Party chairman, said he didn’t know if that might hurt local party candidates seeking office in 2006.
The third resolution condemned as vigilantes civilian anti-immigration groups such as the Minuteman Civil Defense Corps.
The DNC convention proved to be a planning and strategy workshop for rank-and-file activists and largely unknown elected officials. No Democratic political stars made the trip to Phoenix and even Gov. Janet Napolitano was south of the border attending meetings between Arizona and Mexican officials.