Republicans seem to be suffering from a case of political amnesia. There is no other explanation for their continued bashing of immigrants. Tim Tancredo’s anti-immigrant campaign went nowhere four years ago. The eventual GOP nominee, John McCain, renounced his support for comprehensive immigration reform, costing him the Latino vote and any chance of winning the White House.
The trend continued after the presidential contests. In 2010, Republicans’ immigrant bashing backfired, galvanizing Latino voters to come out in droves keeping the Senate in control of the Democrats. California gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman found out that she couldn’t backpedal on the anti-immigrant campaign she waged during her primary race. Most recently, Russell Pearce, the architect of Arizona’s show-me-your-papers law was unseated because his constituents had enough of his focus on demonizing immigrants instead of the issues they cared about.
History is repeating itself. The Republican presidential hopefuls, particularly Mitt Romney, are following the failed footsteps of their political predecessors. Mitt Romney barely won the Iowa caucus and continues to isolate voters by ignoring the needs of hardworking Americans. Instead of focusing on ways to restore our economy, he has come out against the DREAM Act – proposed legislation that would create a legal pathway for children who grew up in the U.S. and are undocumented through no fault of their own. Romney said that he would veto the DREAM Act, preventing millions of students from contributing to our country’s workforce. Not only do Latino voters support the DREAM Act overwhelmingly, but most Americans support the legislation because it is good for our economy.
Ron Paul is also willing to sacrifice the Latino vote in an attempt to cater to his party’s base voters. He has called for repealing the citizenship clause of the 14th Amendment which overturned the Dred Scott decision that held that African Americans could not be citizens of the United States. Rick Santorum once called the Latino electorate the “illegal vote.” Newt Gingrich had to apologize for calling Spanish the “ghetto language.” Romney calls the DREAM Act a “handout.” Immigrants are not here for handouts. Romney is forgetting about the many Latino citizens and immigrants, including those that are undocumented, who have served and shed blood in World War II, Vietnam, and most recently Iraq.
Republicans need to do the math. Every month, 50,000 Latino citizens turn 18 in the U.S. In 2004, 7.5 million Latinos voted. In 2008, that number increased to 10 million. The DREAM Act-eligible students that Republicans are saying “no” to, will influence their friends and families that will head to the polls this election season.
The candidates have forgotten about Florida. Experts say that the upcoming Florida caucus will determine the GOP nominee. Four years ago, Romney lost the Florida primary to McCain because he was on the wrong side of the immigration issue. Last year, Florida’s Latinos and top business leaders joined forces turn back anti-immigrant legislation pushed by the state’s conservative legislative leaders.
The candidates have no plans to debate on a Spanish-language network before the contest in the heavily Latino state, proving that the Latino vote does not matter to them. They must think that if they don’t appear in Hispanic media or at Hispanic venues Latinos won’t know what they’re up to — well, guess what? We speak English too. Republicans can run but they can’t hide.
As they did in 2008 and 2010, Latino voters will ensure that candidates that run on an anti-immigrant platform face defeat at the polls. When Republicans lose, they will only have themselves to blame.
Eliseo Medina is the International Secretary-Treasurer, Service Employees International Union.[Photo By alancleaver_2000]