There is no question that the GOP has a Latino problem and the primary debate season has not helped. Acknowledging Sheriff Joe Arpaio – Hispanic poster child of anti-immigrant action – at the Arizona debate to the applause of the crowd only enforced the message Latinos have been hearing over the last four years. “You (GOP) don’t want our undocumented brethren here under any circumstance.” Looking at the “Latino numbers” and with Romney emerging as the frontrunner, you knew something was going to give.
Enter Florida Senator Marco Rubio GOP Latino poster child and potential VP nominee. Last week, Rubio started announcing that he would be bringing forward a new version of the DREAM Act, and then officially endorsed Mitt Romney. A spokesman for Rubio said on March 27 that the Senator “wants to help these young people and do it in a more limited way than the DREAM Act would do.” While nothing is official, what has been leaked suggests Rubio’s Bill would create a student visa allowing undocumented students to stay and finish their studies so that eventually they can apply legally.
Rubio isn’t the only Republican suddenly focused on immigration. In the House, Florida Republican David Rivera has been promoting the ARMS Act, another DREAM Act “light” version that only opens the way to legalizing undocumented students who serve in the military. While Republican Senators Jon Kyl of Arizona and Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas are also preparing their own immigration bills. We can expect a big announcement from the GOP on immigration legislation, timed perfectly after Romney secures the nomination.
The GOP will maneuver with this compromise in an effort to show their love to the Latino voter, but it may simply be “too little too late.” Obama will enter the general election with a war chest of GOP anti-immigrant sound bites to run on Romney. Dems have already labeled these light immigration bills as attempts to create a permanent “underclass of citizens” – rather than a real pathway.
Looking at the big picture of judgment day in November, Romney will still have difficulties solidifying his own party. The primaries have displayed Romney’s lack of traction as he has shown poorly in many solid red southern states especially within the key GOP evangelical block. Not that we haven’t seen it happen before, but this election is still the President’s to lose, both nationally and within the Hispanic community.
For years the GOP has turned their back on moderate voices and Latinos within their own party who have told them to tread carefully on immigration. Many Republican Latinos have spoken to their leadership about this issue, yet again and again the GOP sided with the worst voices within their circles. The community will be asking- “why accept these crumbs of bills for the sake of compromise, when all we have to do is wait a few months to an Obama second term when the field will be ripe for comprehensive reform?” Will the Republican election year immigration strategy have an effect? It could, but unfortunately for the GOP I believe the gallinas have already come home to roost?”
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 Polical Action Committee and active political commentator.