Seeking distance from Trump, California GOP loosens immigration stance

California Republican Party Chairman Jim Brulte speaks during a meeting on Friday, the opening day of the party's convention in Anaheim.

California Republican Party Chairman Jim Brulte speaks during a meeting on Friday, the opening day of the party’s convention in Anaheim.

(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

The California Republican Party voted Sunday to soften its stance on immigration, responding to harsh rhetoric from presidential candidate Donald Trump.

Republicans have been struggling to find a balance between appealing to the Golden State’s growing Latino population and satisfying its base of white conservatives. The problem has grown more pressing with Trump, a New York real estate mogul, soaring to the top of the primary polls while advocating a crackdown on illegal immigration.

The changes say Republicans “hold diverse views” on “what to do with the millions of people who are currently here illegally.” The wording of the amendment was tweaked after a Saturday committee meeting, which used the phrase “otherwise law-abiding folks” instead of “people.”


Although the new language emphasizes opposition to “amnesty,” it removes the statement that “allowing illegal immigrants to remain in California undermines respect for the law.”

The changes were proposed by a Latino party official from Fresno, Marcelino Valdez, who said it was a reaction to Trump’s “offensive” comments on immigrants.

It’s important to use “language that is more appealing to California’s diverse electorate,” Valdez said.

In a statement after the vote, he called it “an anti-Proposition 187 plank,” referring to the controversial 1994 ballot measure that would have prevented immigrants in the country illegally from receiving public services. It was invalidated by federal courts, but not before it helped drive Latinos away from the Republican Party.

Jon Fleischman, a conservative blogger and party delegate, spoke against the change on Saturday by calling it too ambiguous.

But he voted for it on Sunday after the phrase “otherwise law-abiding folks” was removed.

“You can’t be law-abiding while you’re breaking the law,” he said.

Follow @chrismegerian for more updates.