The Republican Party has officially endorsed its backing for Arizona-style state immigration laws, adding into its platform language that such laws should be "encouraged, not attacked" and calling for the federal government to drop its lawsuits against the laws.
That language and other provisions were widely approved by the party after being introduced by the co-author of the Arizona law, Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach (R).
The official party position now reads that "State efforts to reduce illegal immigration must be encouraged, not attacked," and says the Department of Justice should immediately drop its lawsuits against controversial state immigration laws in Arizona, Alabama, South Carolina and Utah.
That language is likely to please immigration hard-liners — but it could further damage the party's standing with Hispanic voters, a key voting bloc in a number of swing states. Many Hispanics see Arizona-style laws as discriminatory.
"I think it's an expression of support for Arizona-style laws," Kobach said. "The platform also encourages states to create laws in this area."
Kobach's amendment, which is now official party policy, also includes calls to withhold federal funding for any universities that provide in-state tuition for undocumented immigrants as well as "sanctuary cities" that refuse to enforce state and federal laws on immigration, and calls for the government to complete construction of a fence along the Mexican border that Congress authorized in 2006.
Another amendment he backed that was included in the party platform strengthens the GOP's previous support of a national "E-Verify" system.
The broader party's inclusion of Kobach's amendments reverses a subcommittee's decision the day before to reject the language, and shows his power within the party.
"Of the amendments that Chris either made or spoke in favor of, each and every one was adopted," Indiana RNC Committeeman James Bopp, a constitutional scholar who chaired one of the party's platform subcommittees. "He had a significant impact on the formulation of the platform. People respect his views and listen to him carefully on these issues."
Kobach was an early supporter of Mitt Romney during the primary, citing his immigration positions, and at one point advised Romney on immigration policy, though Romney's campaign denied that he was an official policy adviser to the campaign.
Romney ran hard to the right on immigration during the primary, but has sought since then to temper his rhetoric when talking about the emotional issue.
But Kobach said he was happy with where the party stood on immigration, and said he was unconcerned with Romney's recent remarks on the subject.
"Other issues have just come to the fore and dominated his remarks more than immigration and that's fine — I don't think he's changed his stance," he said. "If we start with the premise that illegal means illegal we need to address that specific things can be done to make that become a reality."