Republicans do the immigration limbo

30 Nov

Published at 17h35


Here they go again! After having their hats handed to them on Election Day, the GOP has clustered behind closed doors for some serious navel staring. After much discussion, they appear to have discovered what everyone knew all along: It wasn’t just the economy, stupid!

Women didn’t like being talked down to and treated like objects with men deciding what they can and cannot do with their bodies. Gays and lesbians didn’t like paranoid conservatives deciding the nature and legality of their relationships. Hispanics didn’t like being treated like second-class invaders rushing in to steal all the jobs all the Anglos apparently wanted picking tomatoes, plucking chickens in squalid poultry factories, topping onions, or, working the vineyards by hand under the hot sun.

In short, the Republicans discovered that when you craft your policies and your rhetoric to favor rich, old and xenophobic non-Hispanic whites, you become the party of rich, old and xenophobic non-Hispanic whites, which just happens to be a rapidly dwindling demographic.

Everybody knows how the Republicans ran off Latinos. They insisted throughout the entire campaign that the number one issue was the economy and job creation. It was. But it wasn’t the only issue. That’s where they went wrong.

So, throughout the primaries, the Republican candidates tried to out-right each other. With the exceptions of Newt Gingrich and Rick Perry, the field of candidates seem to revel in promoting a “boot-’em-out” immigration philosophy. They took turns supporting Arizona’s anti-immigrant crackdown, in all of its disgustingly obvious racial profiling glory. Mitt Romney came up with his now infamous “self-deportation” theory of making life so miserable for undocumented immigrants in the country that you want to, or be forced to if they want to eat, go back to where they came from.

And, just in case anyone was unclear on where the Party stood, the architect of the Arizona law, Kris Kobach, got much of the same harsh anti-immigrant policies codified in the party’s platform.


Apparently treating people like dirt, doesn’t make them want to vote for you. And — shocker! — there’s enough Hispanics now that you can’t win without them.

Worse, the Pew Research Center just came out with a study that shows that Latinos making babies. Babies grow up. And some of them vote. Enough, in fact, that the Hispanic voting population will double by 2030.

If they can’t win without them now, what will the Republicans do then — if the party even exists by then?

Well, survival is an important instinct, even for political parties. As much as they stuck their head in the sand, and try to work their way through this election in denial of the demographics, the turnout and the vote on November 6 was proof that none of them can deny anymore. So now, the Republicans want to change their tune on immigration.

“Just kidding! We didn’t really mean we want to kick you out. We want you to stay. But…”

The “but” is the challenge. The Republicans want to seem like they’re really trying to change their thinking and their philosophy about immigration, i.e. Hispanics, but what they’re offering up is, at best, a joke. At worst, it’s an insult. Most likely, it’s somewhere in between — either an unintentional racist faux pas, or a sloppily and thinly veiled political sleight of hand.

The Republicans have brought forward two proposals. One is called the ACHIEVE Act, which is their variation of the DREAM Act. The other is the STEM Jobs Act of 2012.

Naturally, the GOP is trotting out some of its prominent players to tell everybody what a wonderful bill it is. Including, of course, Hispanic House Republicans like Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart from Florida.

“I applaud Majority Leader Cantor for the effort he is making to keep families together through H.R. 6429, STEM Jobs Act of 2012,” Diaz-Balart said in an email statement. “The bill will make up to 55,000 visas available to qualified immigrants who have a doctorate degree in a field of science, technology, engineering, or mathematics (STEM). Current law provides a visa only for the qualified individual. This version of the bill expedites the visa authorization process for their spouses and children, and facilitates the reunification of these families.

“By extending visas to the family members, we can ensure that these families stay together, simply because it is the right thing to do. This bill not only keeps these families together, but promotes innovation, investment, and research in the United States. STEM graduates create the new businesses that promote economic growth and job creation.”

Sounds great.

It’s not.

What the act really offers is a legal limbo for what amounts to less than a handful of highly qualified and educated immigrants in fields vital to the nation’s strength and growth.

What it offers is:

– legal residency, but no way of becoming a citizen.

– 55,000 visas, which is barely a drop in the bucket of the estimated 12 million undocumented immigrants in the country. It’s barely a drop in the bucket for the estimated 800,000 young undocumented immigrants whose deportations were halted by President Barack Obama in June.

– and Democrats insist it takes away 50,000 visas from people who don’t have PhD’s and master’s degrees.

So, cutting through Diaz-Balart’s biased partisan self-promotion, what it offers is little more than a feel-good snow job to make it look like the Republicans are embracing immigration reform.

The ACHIEVE Act is no better. Some of called it the DREAM Act Lite. But it’s really more of a DREAM Act Snipe.

Where the DREAM Act offers those young immigrants brought here as children a path to citizenship if they go to college or serve in the military, the ACHIEVE Act repeats the STEM Act’s limbo dance. they can have residency, but not become citizens.

Small wonder, then, that the Democrats are up in arms, and that the Hispanic Caucus on Capitol Hill has repudiated the bill.

“The problem with the ACHIEVE Act is it does not achieve the dream,” Senator Bob Menendez (D-New Jersey) said during a news conference Wednesday morning.

Illinois Rep. Luis Gutierrez’s reaction to the STEM Act was even more vitriolic. He accused the Republicans of “loading up the measure with provisions that are a slap in the face to the core values of the United States.

“If you support this bill, you are saying that one group of immigrants is better than another and one type of educated, degree-holding person and their work is more important than another’s.”

If this is really the best that our political leaders can do, then they’re not very good at leading or in knowing what their constituents really want. It’s time to end the political games, and accept the political reality. It’s time to listen to the nation’s Hispanics and to understand that we believe in the American dream. And we want to make this country great, too, if you let us.

The opinions expressed here are those of the bloggers and celebrity guest writers and do not necessarily reflect the positions of Terra, Terra’s affiliates, subsidiaries, parent companies, clients and partners. They should not be attributed thereto.

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Carlos Harrison

Carlos Harrison is an award-winning journalist, editor and writer of 14 books in English and Spanish. Born in Panama, he has covered national and international events for more than 20 years.

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