While the GOP can and will be able to court Latinos on many fiscal and social issues, still looming is immigration reform. The question of what to do with over eight million of our primarily Hispanic undocumented brethren will be the heart issue that many Latinos will take into consideration at the polling place.
The GOP has a well deserved image problem when it comes to immigration, having taken a hardline stance to cater to their base over the years.
In the interest of fairness, we thought it best to go right to the source and see what the candidate had to say at MittRomney.com:
“Mitt Romney opposes amnesty because he believes that it acts as a magnet encouraging illegal immigration. The last amnesty law passed in 1986 granted legal status to 2.7 million illegal immigrants. In the decades since, the illegal immigrant population has quadrupled. Mitt believes that an amnesty should not be permitted to happen again. Illegal immigrants who apply for legal status should not be given any advantage over those who are following the law and waiting their turn. Mitt absolutely opposes any policy that would allow illegal immigrants to ‘cut in line.’”
Coincidentally, the 1986 bill was passed by GOP patron saint Ronald Reagan, yet his concept of “amnesty” is the only nuance of the Great Communicator’s actions not heralded by the party today. And the problem remains: what are you going to do with those who are already here if not create some system in which they can stay and eventually become citizens?
Romney’s answer is one of “self deportation.” The concept of deportation by attrition has been modeled by states such as Arizona and Alabama, the goal being to create an environment so toxic for the undocumented that they’re forced to leave. Romney’s stance will continue to paint the GOP into a corner on immigration and hurt their appeal with Latino voters. Deportation by attrition has only been harmful to the states and communities who have promoted it, dividing families and negatively impacting economies, not to mention alienating Latino voters.
For the GOP the very concept of amnesty is an affront to their sense of law and order, and to say that there are no Latinos who don’t also hold their view would be incorrect. But the reality is now what do we do?
In order to gain some Latino votes, the GOP will suddenly “care” about moving on immigration by introducing their version of the Dream Act that will not give citizenship to anyone other than soldiers (did we really have to argue about that no-brainer?). Rubio is introducing a Dream Act for students that allows them to stay, but doesn’t offer a pathway to citizenship.
Republicans will argue that Democrats won’t support their “Dream Act Lite” because anything less than a pathway to citizenship wouldn’t create a massive influx of new dedicated Democratic voters. Again, the elephant is moving too slow.
The rational for waiting until Obama’s second term is the simple reality that we know we can do better.
So tell us Mitt, what else you got for us?
Jose Cruz is the editor of OurTiempo.com, worked in the Clinton White House and on three presidential campaigns. He is the founder of ImmigrationPAC, a pro-comprehensive immigration reform Federal Political Action Committee, and is an active political commentator.