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Margins to the Mainstream: Extremists Have Influenced the GOP 2016 Policy Platform

Echoing the anti-immigrant movement’s call to build a wall on the U.S. border with Mexico and the anti-LGBT movement’s cries to restrict marriage to a union between a man and a woman, the GOP has released its official 2016 policy platform.

The Platform Committee met last week to debate its 2016 policy positions before the Republican National Convention, which opened Monday in Cleveland. Coming in the midst of a highly publicized identity crisis for the GOP, members of hate groups and antigovernment extremists met alongside hard right lawmakers to draft the platform. 

Some of the more extreme rhetoric was included after amendments proposed by extremists were approved and adopted into the final draft, which serves as a subtle but powerful attack on the LGBT community, immigrants and Muslims in the United States.

Tony Perkins, head of the anti-LGBT hate group Family Research Council (FRC), played a very big role in the committee's proceedings. (Perkins himself once called pedophilia a “homosexual problem.”)

Perhaps it is no surprise, then, that FRC, a group that has claimed homosexuals are more likely to engage in child sex abuse than heterosexuals, released a statement ahead of the committee meeting. 

“The current RNC leadership continues to do a great job of ensuring the core values of life and family are protected,” the statement read. “However, conservatives are prepared to defend the party's guiding principles against liberal interest groups that have called for a weakening of the platform.”

These “guiding principles” include a thinly veiled endorsement of conversion therapy, or “ex-gay therapy,” a dangerous practice that purports to change a person’s sexual orientation. Perkins proposed an amendment to the platform, which read, “We support the right of parents to determine the proper treatment or therapy for their minor children.” The amendment was approved.

Perkins also called for the committee to include the draft position to support states suing the Obama administration over its transgender bathroom policy. Despite some opposition, the committee voted to keep the anti-trans position. The GOP platform also includes a measure defining marriage as a union between a man and a woman.

Perkins issued a press release on Wednesday night reveling in the fact that the committee had “succeeded in crafting one of the most conservative GOP platforms in modern times.”

Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, one of the country’s leading anti-immigrant lawyers, also was successful in his efforts to add anti-immigrant language to the platform. Kobach is a longtime attorney with the Immigration Reform Law Institute (IRLI), the legal arm of the Federation for American Immigration Reform, an organization with a nearly four-decade long history of blatant attacks on immigrants through legislation and grassroots activism.

As the committee worked to finalize the party’s position ahead of the convention, Kobach proposed an amendment to add language calling for the border wall that Donald Trump has used as a campaign theme.

Kobach’s amendment, which the committee also approved, calls for a border wall covering “the entirety of the Southern Border and must be sufficient to stop both vehicular and pedestrian traffic.” Kobach has a history of adding nativist language to the GOP’s positions. It came as little surprise, considering he served as one of Trump’s key immigration advisors during the primary season and helped to draft Trump’s nativist immigration plan.

In 2012, Kobach, added language to the GOP's platform calling for a border fence, ending in-state tuition for undocumented immigrants and numerous other anti-immigrant measures. While the 2012 Platform included anti-Shariah language proposed by Kobach, the 2016 Platform focuses on anti-refugee measures, as well as call for the renewal of the National Security Entry-Exit Registration System (NSEERS). The program required tens of thousands of Muslim and Middle Eastern visa holders to register with the government and be fingerprinted. Amid widespread criticisms that such measures amounted to racial profiling, the program was shut down in 2011. While it is unclear if Kobach had a role in renewing calls to bring back NSEERS, he was influential in creating the program in 2001 while serving as Attorney General John Ashcroft’s chief advisor on immigration and border security.

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