Reince Priebus Spins on Immigration and the New RNC

A Customs and Border Protection officer works at the passport control area January 19, 2007 at Miami International Airport in Miami, Florida.

Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Jennifer Rubin talks to RNC Chairman Reince Priebus about the Growth & Opportunity Project schematic, and writes that critics “seem to have gotten the report wrong.”

He clarified that he is not, for example, taking a position on immigration. The report calls for comprehensive immigration reform but says nothing about the form of that reform. (That could be a borders-only plan and delayed green-card status with no citizenship, frankly.) He said, “It’s not appropriate for the party chairman to pick and choose what provision of what law is going to be included or excluded.” But the issue is “important [enough] for us to be a part of the debate.”

Maybe Priebus himself isn’t taking a position, but the report clearly took one. “It is encouraging,” write Fleischer et al, “that there are many Republican leaders both in the House and the Senate working on immigration proposals.” It’s encouraging because “Hispanic voters tell us our Party’s position on immigration has become a litmus test, measuring whether we are meeting them with a welcome mat or a closed door.” Thus, “comprehensive immigration reform is consistent with Republican economic policies that promote job growth and opportunity for all.” The report refers to “comprehensive immigration reform” six times, positively each time.

But back to Rubin:

In focus groups and meetings around the country, Priebus said, he learned that the Mitt Romney phrase “self-deportation” was the biggest turn-off for Hispanics. He called it a terrible “unforced error,” saying, “It was the most hurtful thing in the country [for] Hispanics.”

The way this is written, you’d think “self-deportation” was some wacky piece of Romney rhetoric never endorsed by Republicans. But as Benjy Sarlin noticed yesterday, the 2012 Republican platform committed the party to “humane procedures to encourage illegal aliens to return home voluntarily.” That’s a mouthful, so advocates like Kris Kobach usually call it “self-deportation.” Priebus is simultaneously trying to distance himself from the party’s actual immigration position (hard right) while pretending that its new position (whatever Rubio wants to pass) is some figment of Tom Tancredo’s imagination.