Sunday, June 04, 2006

Republican platform calls for scuttling Perry's Trans-Texas Corridor

Delegates back border barrier

Jun. 04, 2006

Fort Worth Star-Telegram
Copyright 2006

SAN ANTONIO -- Texas Republicans wrapped up their two-day convention in the Alamo City on Saturday by adopting a party platform demanding that a "physical barrier" be built along the Rio Grande.

Continuing a theme that emerged from the convention podium Friday, the state's two U.S. senators vowed to resist any effort to grant amnesty to undocumented immigrants.

And they blamed the federal government, which has been under full Republican control since the 2002 elections, for neglecting border security.

"Make no mistake, this is the responsibility of our federal government," Sen. John Cornyn told the 10,000-plus delegates in the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center.

"And our federal government has failed for too many years."

Cornyn and Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison voted against the legislation that the Senate recently passed, saying that it would have created a path to citizenship for many of the estimated 12 million people who have entered the country illegally.

Both vowed to strip that provision from the bill before final passage.

Hutchison tried to soften concerns that the get-tough-on-immigration message roiling on the convention floor and from the speakers podium might cast Republicans as mean-spirited and insensitive to minorities.

"We are a proud nation of immigrants," Hutchison said. "I am for legal immigration. I am against illegal immigration."

State Sen. Jane Nelson, a Lewisville Republican who represents part of downtown Fort Worth and parts of Northeast Tarrant and Denton counties, said illegal immigration has become a primary concern in her heavily Republican district.

"The top issue used to go back and forth between transportation and education," Nelson said in an interview. "But immigration has jumped over both of those issues in a big way."

For her constituents, Nelson said, the concern is as much about homeland security as it is about how immigration affects public services and employment.

"They're concerned that terrorists come in without any problem across our southern border," Nelson said.

In her speech to the delegates, Hutchison tried to frame the issue in a similar way.

She also warned the party faithful that President Bush's sagging poll numbers and general unease across a spectrum of issues could jeopardize the Republican majorities in Congress.

"We have never had so much to lose, and we've never had so far to fall," said Hutchison, whose re-election is being challenged by Democrat Barbara Ann Radnofsky, a Houston lawyer.

Democrats will meet in Fort Worth this week for their state convention.

In the state GOP platform, sections of which are routinely ignored by candidates, Republicans also called for scuttling Gov. Rick Perry's chief transportation initiative, the Trans-Texas Corridor.

The platform now says the mammoth system of highways, tollways and rail lines would infringe on private-property rights.

Delegates also elected the party's first African-American vice chairman in modern history.

Robin Armstrong, a Galveston-area physician, said that although he was raised in a Democratic household, he has aligned himself with the GOP since 1989 because of its anti-abortion platform and conservative outlook.

"I grew up a Democrat, I guess," Armstrong said.

"I believe [most Texans] are very conservative. I believe that minority groups are very conservative."
John Moritz, 512-476-4294

© 2006 Fort Worth Star-Telegram: