The Senate’s bipartisan immigration reform package is flopping badly with leaders of the Arizona Republican Party, said state party chairman Randy Pullen on Monday.
Party officials have received “hundreds” of letters, e-mails and telephone calls from Republicans since Sens. Jon Kyl and John McCain, R-Ariz., and Sen. Edward Kennedy, DMass., and others introduced the compromise measure in Washington on Thursday, Pullen said.
To illustrate the point at a press conference, Pullen displayed a letter with a drawing of a fist and finger making an obscene gesture.
To ensure that the message was understood, the letter’s author used a blue highlighter to color in the extended digit, and jotted the message, “Here is my middle finger.”
“This basically is the outlook that many of our party faithful are feeling right now about the Republican Party,” Pullen said.
At least some members of the party appear to be taking their cues from the state party chairman himself.
During the weekend, he posted a statement on his blog that starts: “On behalf of the more than 1 million registered Arizona Republicans who care very deeply about this state and have tremendous love for our great nation, I am very disappointed in this new legislation.”
The state party also emailed the 1½-page statement to 86,000 people in its database.
Despite the unrest within the party, Pullen and members of his staff have been working to soothe party members who are upset about the immigration bill and Arizona’s senators, he said.
“I’ve got to tell you, when you have people coming in every day, tearing up their registration cards and throwing them on the floor or changing their registrations from Republican to independent, it’s a little bit disconcerting,” he said.
A better program would have provided increased border security without packaging it with immigration reform, he said.
Furthermore, a better program would have extended consideration to the length of time illegal immigrants have lived in the United States when determining eligibility for granting legal status, Pullen said.
Rep. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., defended Kyl, one of the chief architects of the immigration reform package, as a conservative Republican.
“This is a conservative bill. What people haven’t appreciated fully yet — and I think they will when they step back and actually see the language — is that Kyl won some big concessions on this for some areas of real concern,” Flake told the Tribune.
Among those provisions:
• A temporary worker program that limits the amount of time foreign workers may spend in the United States.
• The “touch-back” provision that requires heads of households to return to their native countries to apply for citizenship.
• An end of “chain migration,” an immigration platform that awards citizenship status based largely on ties to family members who already are U.S. citizens. The new bill calls for the selection process for future immigrants to be based on a points system that rewards employment criteria, education and knowledge of English.
“The notion that this is amnesty when the fastest anybody could get citizenship is 13 or 14 years is just crazy,” Flake said.
“This is a conservative bill. I don’t think it’s conservative at all to just ignore the problem and pretend to solve it by doing something at the border.”
Meanwhile, the bill received generally favorable reviews from the Valley Interfaith Project.
The bill is an important first step, vice president Dick White said. He called on Kyl and Mc-Cain to guide the bill through Congress until it’s signed into law by President Bush.
In no state would passage of this bill have more impact than in Arizona, White said. Our border would become more secure, 500,000 undocumented immigrants would have a path to citizenship, high school students would benefit from the inclusion of the Dream Act, and our agriculture industry would have the workers they need, he said.