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California Republicans softening platform on immigration

Video: California GOP softens immigration platform

Party activists weighing first material changes to immigration platform in eight years.
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Party activists weighing first material changes to immigration platform in eight years.

In its latest attempt to heal political divisions with Latinos, the California Republican Party is moving to alter its platform on immigration and social issues, a rebranding maneuver some activists believe better reflects new norms and rapidly changing demographics.

The changes on immigration were overwhelmingly approved by a committee at the party’s biannual convention and face a floor vote Sunday. They would be the first significant modifications to that plank in eight years.

“We’re evolving,” said Republican Assemblyman Rocky Chávez, a candidate for the U.S. Senate. “Anything that doesn’t evolve and change dies.”

Activists pushing for the changes were inspired by the possibility that stances taken by Republican presidential candidates could damage their party’s brand in California. With the anti-immigrant rhetoric flying again, Marcelino Valdez, the regional vice chairman of the Central Valley, said he and party leaders are moving to strike from their platform language they view as outmoded and polarizing, such as the term “illegal alien.”

The draft would make several revisions, including removing a requirement the party now supports specifying that workers on guest visas receive tamper-proof identification cards with biometrics to allow the government to track them.

Also eliminated would be the party’s stance that all election ballots and other government documents be printed only in English as well as the statement that allowing illegal immigrants to remain in California undermines respect for the law.

The effort would retain the state GOP’s support for English as the nation’s “common language – the official language of government.”

“The goal in writing this was, it’s not what we say, but how we say it that is just as important,” said Valdez, a resident of Fresno. “This won’t guarantee that we’re going to win elections. But I think it puts us in that step to make sure that we can connect with our voters who are telling us that they feel our platform ... is not pro-immigrant.”

Ruben Barrales, the president and chief executive of Grow Elect, an organization out to expand the party though Latino outreach, applauded the shift.

“I think it sets a more positive tone; a more welcoming tone,” he said.

On social issues, the party is proposing a change to its equal opportunity plank adding “sexual orientation” to the list of groups protected from housing and employment discrimination.

That moves come months after the GOP, under the stewardship of Chairman Jim Brulte and megadonor Charles Munger, Jr., granted charter status to Log Cabin California, an organization of gay and lesbian Republicans, over some opposition from within its conservative flank.

Randall Jordan, of the Tea Party California Caucus, said the practical effects of a platform change likely would be minimal.

Republican candidates, he said, “don’t run on the platform.” Still, he said, “These are long-held beliefs.”

Christopher Cadelago: 916-326-5538, @ccadelago