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Behind Enemy Lines

The Curious Case of Latino Republicans

by ALVARO HUERTA

In light of the GOP’s nasty attacks against Latino immigrants, how can any rational Latino vote Republican during the upcoming November 2nd elections?  Worse yet, how can any Latino be a member of a political party whose national platform centers on blaming brown immigrants for most of the country’s social and economic ills?

While previous White House administrations defined their respective political agendas with catchy domestic programs, such as President Lyndon B. Johnson’s “War on Poverty” of the mid-1960s and President Richard Nixon’s “War on Drugs” of the early 1970s, today’s GOP’s slogan can be easily coined as the “War on Immigrants.”

Instead of focusing on resolving the nation’s international wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Republican leaders have orchestrated a domestic war of words and laws against the country’s most vulnerable individuals: Latino immigrants.  Simply put, this represents a GOP ploy to galvanize the white vote, take over key state-level positions, recapture Congress and divert the public’s attention away from the shattered economy. 

Despite the bleak economic outlook for most Americans, double-digit unemployment rates and lack of credit for small businesses, Republicans maintain their vicious attacks against recent immigrants as part of their primary mission for this election cycle and overall governance strategy.

For instance, while Arizona’s Governor Jan Brewer erroneously argues that immigrants are responsible for high crime rates in the desert state, including her lies about decapitated bodies near the U.S.–Mexico border, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) pejoratively refer to the children of immigrants as “anchor babies.”

In a recent television interview, Graham foolishly claims that immigrants come here for the sole purpose to “drop a baby” and leave.  What ever happened to Southern hospitality, Mr. Graham?

Isn’t the “family values” mantra one of the cornerstone principles of the GOP?  If so, Republicans should be ashamed of themselves for targeting immigrant mothers and their children.  Even for conservatives, this is a new low to target Latino newborns.

Where’s former Florida Governor Jed Bush, who married a Mexican-born woman, when we need him?  Under McConnell and Graham’s logic, does this mean that Jed Bush and his wife Columba Bush (born Colubmba Garnica Gallo) have three grown “anchor babies”?  Where’s former Massachusetts Governor and potential GOP 2012 presidential candidate Mitt Romney, who can trace his family lineage to Mexico dating back to the 1800s, to condemn the hate-speech in his own party?

Straying from the official GOP agenda, former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales came out of his hiding-hole and recently wrote an op-ed in support of immigrants.  As a key figure in the George W. Bush Administration and grandson of Mexican immigrants, Gonzales correctly states that immigrants represent hard working people.  He also argues against the Republicans’ plan to change the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution where individuals born in this country, regardless of the legal status of the parents, automatically become citizens.

Gonzales’ logic goes astray, however, when he blames Democrats for the GOP’s xenophobia since apparently liberals “purposefully” maintain the immigration debate alive, prompting Republicans to spew their anti-immigrant rhetoric.  This is like saying that school-yard bullies should not be held accountable for their actions, since their victims continue to show up to school, essentially “daring” the bullies to unleash their terror on them.

This is not to say that Democrats symbolize the champions of Latino immigrants.  Despite the fact that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nv.) supports amnesty for undocumented college students under the DREAM Act, as a strategic attempt to court the Latino vote, the Obama Administration has deported more immigrants than George W. Bush during the same time frame.  Furthermore, Democrats, similar to Republicans, favor the same old enforcement-only based approaches to the complex immigration problem without considering human rights issues, such as deporting parents of U.S.-born children.

In this season of immigrant bashing, it’s baffling to see how any Latino would support a Republican candidate in the nation’s highly contested elections.  Don’t Latino Republicans understand that anti-immigrant laws, such as Arizona’s SB 1070, also applies to them due to the color of their skin or Spanish-surname?  What about their friends, acquaintances, neighbors, workplace associates, parents, grandparents, cousins, aunts and uncles who may lack legal status in this country?

It’s time to stop the racism and name-calling against Latino immigrants. From Meg Whitman’s campaign for governor in California to Marco Rubio’s candidacy for the U.S. senate in Florida, Latinos will play a key role in determining the outcome of tight elections and should differentiate between friends and foes in the voting booth.

ALVARO HUERTA is a doctoral student at UC Berkeley. He can be reached at: ahuerta@berkeley.edu