FORT WORTH -- Texas Republicans say they know their approval of a party platform that takes a softer approach to illegal immigration will draw the ire of some conservatives, but many believe it's necessary to win over Hispanic voters.The platform includes a call for a temporary worker program as well as ways to secure the U.S. border, and it had to overcome resistance before being approved at the state party convention, which concluded Saturday.Some party members fear that the approach will open the door for amnesty."The way we are going about it, being a border state and taking a weaker approach, it is disappointing," said Katrina Pierson, a member of the Dallas Tea Party."The platform we had before [in 2010] would have been strong enough to prevent" amnesty."But it is what it is," she said. "I remind myself that the party doesn't follow the platform anyway. It means we need to hold our officials accountable."Others say the platform addresses immigration and can help bring some conservative Hispanics into the GOP who might not have otherwise considered the party.And the key to this year's platform is that it doesn't just talk about illegal immigration, said Justin Machacek, a first-time delegate from Fort Worth who is on the national advisory board of the Evangelicals for Ron Paul Coalition."It offers solutions," he said. "The Republican Party of Texas should be at the forefront of this ... debate and this is our platform we are moving forward."The platform, updated every two years, is designed to outline the party's beliefs. But candidates do not always abide by it and are not bound by it.Two years ago, Texas Republicans passed a platform that took a hard stance against immigration, denying healthcare except in emergencies, calling for penalties against employers who knowingly hire illegal workers and eliminating day-labor centers.'The Texas Solution'Many of those provisions were eliminated in the platform passed during this year's convention.It addresses immigration by creating "The Texas Solution" and calls for a temporary worker program "to bring skilled and unskilled workers into the United States for temporary periods of time when no U.S. workers are currently available."The program would require participants to pay fees and fines, pass a criminal background check, prove they can afford private health insurance and waive rights to apply for public financial assistance."Because of decades-long failure of the federal government to secure our borders and address the immigration issue, there are now upwards of 11 million undocumented individuals in the United States today, each of whom entered and remain here under different circumstances," the document states. "Mass deportation of these individuals would neither be equitable nor practical."We seek common ground to develop and advance a conservative, market- and law-based approach to our nation's immigration issues."Fen Sword of Spring said she supports the immigration provisions."I think we have to do the best we can do under the circumstances," Sword said. "We have a big problem and it has to be addressed."Someone has to have a backbone."Other issues in this year's platform call for repealing the federal Voting Rights Act, enforcing the Defense of Marriage Act, supporting motherhood and opposing any form of human trafficking.The platform still opposes homosexuality, saying it "tears at the fabric of society and contributes to the breakdown of the family unit," but does away with provisions added in the past that opposed the legalization of sodomy and sought to make it a felony to issue a marriage license or perform a marriage ceremony for a same-sex couple.The document supports creating and maintaining a volunteer Constitutional State Militia, defends Texas' state sovereignty, opposes the expansion of legalized gambling, encourages the repeal of the Texas lottery and supports a "free and open internet -- free from intrusion, censorship or control by government or private entities."The document calls for a frugal government, encouraging "all governments and agencies to live as frugally as all taxpayers do," and supports reduced funding for education because "data is clear that additional money does not translate into educational achievement."Voter participationThe platform calls on Republican members of the Texas House to hold town hall meetings to get feedback from voters about what they would like to happen in the legislative session.It also says state lawmakers should do away with the long-standing practice of using pledge cards in Texas House speaker races and to meet in caucus after each November general election to pick the speaker by secret ballot.And it urges the Republican Party and all lawmakers to enact term limits.One key change in party rules, which were also approved during the convention, was allowing the videotaping of any convention activity, said Kory Watkins, a Mansfield delegate and Ron Paul supporter.Videotaping wasn't expressly prohibited before, but it also wasn't expressly allowed, Watkins said.Under the rule change, people may record part or all of the convention with anything from a cellphone to a professional video camera."People can see what we are doing," Watkins said. "Nobody will ever have questions about what happens."Anna M. Tinsley, 817-390-7610Twitter: @annatinsley
A closer look
Texas Republicans' new party platform includes "The Texas Solution" temporary worker program, which would require applicants to:
Pass a criminal background check.
Pay any immigration fine.
Carry private or workplace health insurance.
Waive government assistance.
Know English and pass a civics class.
Be subject to payroll taxes.