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.

Are these the death throes of the GOP?

19 Nov

Published at 20h37


Is this the end of the Republican Party? Is the Grand Old Party about to splinter?

Everybody knows the GOP faces a demographic problem. Namely, Hispanics are an increasingly large and influential group of voters, and they tend to vote Democratic — and in larger and larger percentages.

But in the wake of Mitt Romney’s devastating defeat, and his even more damaging “gifts” excuses for the defeat, the Republican factions are lashing out at him, and one another.

And it’s escalating.

Much of it, naturally is directed at Romney.

It’s understandable that party members want to distance themselves from the failed candidate. Nobody likes a loser. Politicians especially. They view losers like lead weights, ready to drag them down with them. Even more so when the loser is mouthing off that blacks, Latinos, and the young, were for sale. That they could be bought with government handouts, “gifts” as Romney called them. The implication being that we’re all so lazy, don’t want to work, and are so dependent on government “gifts” that will give our vote to the first person holding a welfare check with our name on it.

Former Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez shilled for Romney throughout the campaign. It was hard to find a gathering of more than three Latinos were Gutierrez wouldn’t show up singing the praises of the former Massachusetts governor with the pseudo-Mexican past.

Now, of course, it’s a different story. Sunday, on CNN’s “State of the Union,” Gutierrez laid into the guy he was loving up so much just two weeks ago.

“I don’t know if he understood that he was saying something that was insulting,” he said.

Nice defense for his former pal — “bless his heart, he doesn’t mean to be a racist. He just doesn’t know any better.”

But that’s just Mitt bashing. Where it gets interesting is in the other stuff Gutierrez had to say. Because his criticism there went far beyond dissing a candidate in a dunce cap. What he added was evidence of the widening schism within the party, threatening to rend it apart.

“I was shocked. And frankly I don’t think that’s why Republicans lost the election,” Gutierrez said. “I think we lost the election because the far right of this party has taken the party to a place that it doesn’t belong.”

Well, heck. If only those folks on the far right were a bunch of yahoos that the rest of the GOP could dismiss easily. But they’re not. They are party stalwarts, leaders, and shining stars.

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, a staunch conservative Republicans like to trot out as the face of party inclusiveness because he’s a minority of Indian descent, took his turn bashing Romney over the gifts comment.

He called Romney’s comments “absolutely wrong.”

“We have got to stop dividing the American voters,” Jindal, who is taking over as the Republican Governors Association’s chairman, told reporters at the groups gathering in Las Vegas. “If we’re going to continue to be a competitive party and win elections on the national stage, and continue to fight for our conservative principles, we need two messages to get out loudly and clearly. One, we are fighting for 100 percent of the votes. And second, our policies benefit every American who wants to pursue the American dream, period.”

That was just for starters.

In an opinion piece he penned for CNN, Jindal wrote:

“In the aftermath of the presidential election, Republicans have been inundated with advice to moderate, equivocate, and even abandon their core principles as a necessary prerequisite for winning future elections.

“That is absurd. America already has one liberal political party; there is no need for another one.”

There it is. This is more than a tug-of-war. These are the opening salvos of something far more serious.

Gutierrez is a businessman, and a champion of their interests. And Romney certainly made defending businessmen, a.k.a. the wealthy, a fundamental, inviolable tenet of his campaign.

Which is why some of the other comments Jindal made in his CNN piece are further evidence that the GOP is not only soul-searching, but may be looking to toss some of the old flotsam overboard.

“Quit ‘big,’” he wrote. “We are not the party of big business, big banks, big Wall Street bailouts, big corporate loopholes, or big anything. We must not be the party that simply protects the well off so they can keep their toys. We have to be the party that shows all Americans how they can thrive. We are the party whose ideas will help the middle class, and help more folks join the middle class. We are a populist party and need to make that clear.”

So where are we going with this? And how far will it go?

In many ways this is just the obvious extension of what the Tea Party began four years ago. Their ultraconservative, take no prisoners, make no concessions political style empowered the Michele Bachmanns, Allen Wests and Rick Santorums at the extreme right wing of the party. It even emboldened and elevated the fiscal conservatives like Paul
Ryan, and encouraged Republican members of the House and the Senate to confuse obstructionism with governing.

But this is going farther. This is a recognition that the divisions within the party are growing irreconcilable.

And if things continue this way, there may not be room for both of them in the party.

The old guard represents the old way. The new faces, Jindal, West, Bachmann and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio (Yes, he won his seat because he was a tea party favorite, who just happens to be Hispanic.), represent a new direction. But even there there is division.

The conservative wing, the “far right” Gutierrez was complaining about, takes a strict hard line on immigration. It was their influence, led by Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, that forced Republicans at the national convention to adopt anti-sanctuary, anti-amnesty, tougher border enforcement, and self-deportation as part of the party’s official

Rubio, for all his small government, fiscal conservativeness, has tried to get his fellows in the GOP to tone it down. And now, following the Election Day drubbing that denied the Republicans their much-coveted and highly anticipated control of the Senate, he’s not alone.

Fox News post Sean Hannity and House Speaker John Boehner are among a growing cadre within the party, who are suddenly saying — and without a hint of irony — immigration reform is an idea whose time has come.

How they’re going to get people like Michele Bachmann, Rick Santorum or Iowa Republican Steve King, who has likened immigrants to dogs, to go along is hard to imagine.

So, the GOP faces what is easily the greatest challenge of its history, figuring out if a bad marriage is better than none at all. And, with the political reality of the United States changing around them, whether either way will save them.

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.

Marco Rubio’s big, “Whoops!”

31 Aug

Published at 7h26


The Republicans gave their rising Latino star, Marco Rubio, the premier position of the convention. The Florida senator started off by saying he recognized the responsibility. He even called a few friends, he said, to ask what he should say.

“They had a lot of different opinions,” he said, “But the one thing they all said is, ‘Don’t mess it up.’”

Oh, well, better luck next time.

He almost made it. He’s a skilled orator. His delivery was powerful. And, for those who haven’t heard him deliver the same worn variations on his meant-to-be-heartwarming immigrant’s tale, poignant.

The speech had plenty of great, memorable lines.

“Our problem with President Obama isn’t that he’s a bad person. By all accounts, he too is a good husband, and a good father — and thanks to lots of practice, a good golfer,” he said.

Then he fired off with the sure to be one of the most repeated lines from his entire speech.

“Our problem is not that he’s a bad person,” he said. “Our problem is that he’s a bad president.”

He also drove home the Republican campaign themes that the Grand Old Party is the only one qualified to heal the economy (by, in an odd twist of logic, returning to the very same strategies that caused the recession in the first place), and the only one equipped to restore “American values.”

“This election is not simply a choice between a Democrat and a Republican,” he said. “It’s a choice about what kind of country we want America to be.”

Yeah, it was good. No doubt.

The Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza gushed, “We knew the Florida Senator was talented. But his speech on Thursday night showed that he is a MAJOR political star. Rubio’s speech was, without question, the best of the convention.”

The speech did seem to focus a little bit too much on Marco, instead of on Mitt. Several commentators on TV and on twitter wondered if Rubio hadn’t too obviously used the prominent platform to deliver his first campaign speech of his own 2016 presidential run.

That, though, wasn’t the big, “Whoops!”

The big F-up came near the very end, at the speech’s crescendo, as Marco was building momentum toward the grand finale.

“The story of our time will be written by Americans who haven’t yet even been born,” he said.

“Let us make sure that they write that we did our part.  That in the early years of this new century, we lived in an uncertain time, but we did not allow fear to cause us to abandon what made us special.”

And then, in what was supposed to be the next beat in his drumroll to the big finish, he blew it.

He meant to say, “We chose more freedom instead of more government.”

He didn’t.

Instead, staring pointedly into the camera (and, maybe, away from his TelePrompter) he said:

“We chose more government, instead of more freedom.”

There was a notable stutter in the audience’s clapping — a tiny, momentary lapse, as they collectively wondered if they had heard him right.

Then he went on.

The big problem with what he said is not just that he made a mistake. Anybody can do that. We all have. Sure, this was more like blowing your line on Broadway on opening night, when all the critics, and that big Hollywood producer you were hoping to impress, are watching.

But the really big problem is, the line he blew his part of the Republican Scripture. It’s one of the campaign Commandments, and, they insist, where President Obama has committed a cardinal sins.

The current president, they contend, is trying to control our lives, stifle our creativity, crush our economy, redistribute our wealth, and steal our freedom through bigger and bigger government. More government.

In their view, making sure that everyone has health insurance, making sure that everyone has the same shot at a good education, and making sure that everyone pays their fair share, is socialism. In the GOP’s equation: More government equals less freedom.

So, when Marco said just the opposite, it was like pledging allegiance to the old Soviet Union. Or screwing up the Lord’s Prayer.

Oh, man, of all the lines to blow.

But, hey, we’re all human. Marco recovered nicely, and continued. And someday, maybe, he can offer some advice, and a funny little story, to the person charged with introducing him as his party’s presidential candidate. He can tell him or her, ”don’t mess it up. … But if you do, that’s okay, too.”

GOP Hispanics spoke in Spanish, but not for Latinos

30 Aug

Published at 11h01


Poor Susana. She had a really tough act to follow. What prepared speech is going to stand up after Condoleezza Rice got the crowd to jump up, applauding wildly, four, or was it five, times?

Yes, as they said when they introduced her, Susana Martinez is the nation’s first Latina governor. And yes, as she reminded us, she didn’t have it easy as a Mexican-American child on the border who had to work to help her parents build their business.

But how does that compare to Condi’s tale, and exhortation:

“And on a personal note– a little girl grows up in Jim Crow Birmingham – the most segregated big city in America – her parents can’t take her to a movie theater or a restaurant – but they make her believe that even though she can’t have a hamburger at the Woolworth’s lunch counter – she can be President of the United States and she becomes the Secretary of State,” Rice said in her speech.

“Yes, America has a way of making the impossible seem inevitable in retrospect.  But of course it has never been inevitable – it has taken leadership, courage and an unwavering faith in our values.”

Susana delivered the “it’s all about the economy” pitch the party is pushing. But her stump line sounded dangerously reminiscent of one from four years ago. She said, “En America, todo es possible.” But many must have heard echoes of, “Sí se puede.”

She finally got the crowd on its feet was when she bragged about packing a Smith & Wesson .357. How sweet.

But there was nothing about her grandparents crossing the border in search of a better life, and (although there’s a question about exactly how it all worked out) sorting out the legalities later. There was no open questioning of Mitt Romney’s — and now the party’s – policy of making life so difficult for undocumented immigrants that they’ll “self-deport.”

She surely left Latino listeners wondering, “Oh, Susana, why won’t you speak for me?”

Puerto Rico Gov. Luis Fortuño was no better. As an American citizen from birth, of course, it’s hard for him to relate to the story of people who will risk everything to come here, and then work for next to nothing, to give their families a better life.

He touted his success at improving Puerto Rico’s economy. And he should.

When I took office,” he said, “I inherited a $3.3 billion budget deficit, per person the largest anywhere in the nation. We couldn’t even meet our payroll. We were on the brink of bankruptcy. But we did not shy away from our responsibility to lead. We cut government expenses by almost 20 percent, starting with my own salary. We reduced our deficit 90 percent, while continuing to invest in our schools, hospitals, and highways. At the same time, we slashed taxes 50 percent on individuals and 30 percent on businesses, the largest tax cuts in Puerto Rico’s history.

“And our private sector – the real economy – began to create jobs again.”

Sounds good.

Except it doesn’t mention that his critics point out that he actually lowered taxes for the wealthy – and imposed 19 new taxes on the middle class.

It doesn’t matter if you agree or disagree. The economy/tax-cutting talk is just one part of the election picture.

Latinos are listening for more than what the GOP will do for businesses. They want to know what the Republicans will do for them. And what they’re hearing so far isn’t winning the party many Hispanic followers.

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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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