(CNSNews.com) – The American Principles Project (APP) has launched an initiative designed to bring Latinos into the conservative movement by “supporting policies that are welcoming to immigrants,” but critics said one of the policies - the pathway to citizenship plan - is identical to the open border stance of President Barack Obama and other liberals.
These policies include a five-point plan for comprehensive immigration reform that would offer a pathway to citizenship for people in the country illegally, strengthening border security and creating a guest worker program.
The Latino Partnership for Conservative Principles initiative, which was unveiled at a press conference on Tuesday at the National Press Club, also calls for eliminating workplace raids and establishing a “path for undocumented immigrants to earn legal status” by paying a fine and learning English.
“That’s exactly, word for word, what the Democrats say,” Mark Krikorian, executive director of the conservative Center for Immigration Studies, told CNSNews.com. “This is the Republican Auxiliary of the left’s open border movement.”
When CNSNews.com asked how APP’s plan differs from what many conservatives think would give illegal aliens amnesty, Alfonso Aguilar, who served as the chief of the U.S. Office of Citizenship in the George W. Bush administration, said he believes there are many “pro-immigrant” conservative leaders who would agree with the initiative.
“I want to be very clear that we believe that the rule of law is one of the fundamental principles of our country,” Aguilar said. “We wouldn’t do anything or promote anything that would go against the rule of law.
“That’s what the system is based on,” Aguilar said. “But the rule of law in a proper, in a constitutional sense, in a court of law sense, means that you have to take the violation and put it in the context of the penalty,” he said. “And entering the country illegally is not a crime. It’s a violation.”
Conservative activist Grover Norquist, who serves as an advisor for the initiative, told CNSNews.com that there is precedent for conservatives wanting to change what he called bad laws.
“Back in the 1970s, we had a 55-mile-an-hour speed limit on national highways,” Norquist said. “I don’t know of conservatives of the time insisting that we enforce the law.”
“The conservative position was: Change the law,” Norquist said. “We need to have our immigration laws fit what our country’s needs are.”
But Norquist and APP founder Robert P. George are known for supporting open border policies, Krikorian said, adding that the “anti-immigrant” argument used to promote amnesty is built on a faulty premise.
“The premise is that opposition to amnesty is inherently anti-immigrant,” Krikorian said. “Legalizing illegal immigrants is a stand-alone policy question and has nothing to do with being anti-immigrant.”
In a press release distributed at Tuesday’s event, George said the initiative would “lead the conservative movement in carrying its message to the Latino community and to welcome Latinos as partners in promoting the fundamental principles on which this country was founded.”
That partnership includes working to gain Latinos’ support for conservative political candidates, in particular those who share the APP’s view on immigration reform. That strategy, according to Krikorian, will not help Republicans win elections.
“If Republicans think by becoming more like Democrats means Latinos will vote for them, that’s silly,” Krikorian said, adding that that style of conservatism is what kept Republicans from majority status in Congress for four decades.
But Norquist said at the press conference that Republicans have a history of shutting out certain demographics from the party.
“We need to avoid doing what the Republican Party did 100 years ago with Roman Catholics, which was to kick them away for 100 years,” Norquist said.
Krikorian said he believes that the conservatives who are embracing the liberals’ immigration amnesty plan may be motivated by their sense of immigrant ancestry.
“They are not thinking of their grandchildren,” Krikorian said. “They are thinking of their grandfathers, and that’s not a good way to make immigration policy.”