Today, grassroots activists from the Fair Immigration Reform Movement (FIRM) staged a sit-in and rally at the Republican National Committee offices to demand a meeting with Chairman Michael Steele. Within 20 minutes, Steele agreed to schedule a meeting with the demonstrators on March 31st.
Meanwhile, on Fox News today, Steele implied that he’s been meeting with activists for the past seven to eight months — which seems hard to believe given the fact that FIRM advocates felt the need to stake out the offices of RNC headquarters in order to get the chairman to agree to a meeting. Nevertheless, Steele did indicate that he’s concerned about the way his party has presented itself on the immigration issue and affirmed that the GOP is a Party of assimilation and apple pie:
I have been having discussions with leadership and with activist groups around the country on the immigration issue now for about seven or eight months. I have been very concerned about how we are positioned rhetorically, as well as from a political and policy side to make sure that we are working with our leadership on the hill and activists on the ground.
We are the Party of assimilation. We are the Party that has always stood for welcoming people. We got away from that in 06 and 08 and paid a dear price for it as you know. We shouldn’t be in the business of alienating Americans, but welcoming them. And showing that this is the process that’s expected to come here. This is the door you come through, the paper you fill out. Have a piece of apple pie, sing the star-spangled banner and get to work.
Advocates are probably eager to meet with Steele on the more specific issue of finding another Republican co-sponsor for comprehensive immigration reform. Currently, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) is the lone Republican working on an immigration reform bill with Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY). Graham has repeatedly stated that will not allow the bill to be brought to the floor unless they can find another Republican co-sponsor. GOP volunteers haven’t exactly been forthcoming and FIRM is likely planning on lighting a fire under Steele. “The Republican Party must reject the obstructionist tactics that are alienating mainstream Americans and killing any hopes for a larger, more diverse party in the future,” states FIRM in its press release.
Though Steele is certainly seeking to soften the rhetoric of the Republican Party on immigration, it’s unclear if gentler words will lead to any action. Back in 2008, Steele affirmed that there would be no change in the Republican Party’s enforcement-only platform when it comes to immigration. According to Steele, at the time, “the GOP’s position on immigration is very much the position of many, many Hispanics who are in this country.” When polled, 87% of Latino voters said they would not vote for a congressional candidate who supported deportation policies.