As Texas Republicans prepare to convene Thursday in Fort Worth for their three-day state party convention, an early draft of the party's platform shows that language approved two years ago supporting a guest-worker program could be removed.
The draft, which was obtained by The Texas Tribune, shows that the language calling for a guest-worker program has been replaced with language to support the enactment of a provisional visa program. The guest-worker program language in 2012 was an unprecedented change to the official state party platform. It called for a national temporary worker program, which would allow foreign nationals to come to the U.S. when jobs are available but citizens are unavailable.
Some Republicans have argued the guest-worker language should be stripped because it doesn’t properly respond to the influx of undocumented immigrants already in the country and could be considered amnesty. But supporters of the guest-worker plank say they will work to keep the language in the platform because it would help satisfy the need for workers in Texas without granting blanket amnesty to undocumented immigrants.
The proposed change to the platform indicates that a provisional visa program would be intended to “modernize” immigration laws by replacing the current visa system — which sets quotas for the number of individuals who can enter the U.S. from other countries — and instead calls for a system that “responds to labor shortages,” according to the early draft.
"In order to deal with the current undocumented population, we urge Congress to enact a provisional visa program that does not provide amnesty, does not cause mass deportation and does not provide a pathway to citizenship but does not preclude existing pathways," the platform draft reads.
Steve Munisteri, chairman of the Republican Party of Texas, declined to comment on the early draft of the immigration plank because he said it still has to be fully vetted and approved.
"We won't know what the language will be or will not be until it finishes the process," he said.
Through the proposed additions to the immigration plank of the platform, the state party also specifies that it supports ending the annual green card lottery and urges Congress and the Legislature to "strengthen enforcement and penalties on employers that do not comply with labor and employment laws to ensure an equitable labor market."
Those penalties would not apply to employers that use "employment verification systems."
The temporary platform committee, which is considering the change, will provide a report of the draft to the full convention on Thursday during the first general session. The language will then be considered by the permanent platform committee and then debated by delegates this weekend.
Munisteri said he expects that the proposed language that calls for a provisional visa system will be approved by a majority of delegates, but he anticipates a lively debate on the final language in the immigration plank.
"It's not unusual for political parties to have passionate, sometimes even heated debates, on the issues," he added.
The draft also shows the addition of language that says the U.S. has benefited from the “productive, industrious and gifted” immigrants who have been drawn to the country, but that the nation's broken immigration system and “patchwork attempts to mends its deficiencies” hinder progress toward a system that promotes legal immigration.
“It remains imperative to create fair and consistent procedures that will again enable freedom-loving, hard-working and law-abiding immigrants to join us, by providing them an efficient, practical method of legal entry, so they can lawfully take positions where their labor is needed, without exploitation or harassment,” the draft reads.