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Republicans Have Another “Willie Horton” Moment

Francisco Lopez-Sanchez has been charged with the fatal shooting of American Kate Steinle. He alleges he found the gun and it accidentally fired. He has pleaded not guilty. Prior to this charge, the media has revealed Mr. Lopex-Sanchez had been deported five times before, and that he has a lengthy criminal record.

Sadly, fatal shootings occur in the United States on a daily base, but this particular tragedy has struck a nerve, as citizens were informed about “sanctuary cities.” More than two-hundred counties have sanctuary cities laws on their books. The intent of the law is to provide a communication between the community, local authorities, and DHS. It requires local authorities to notify federal agents of the release dates of illegal immigrants that are in the system to be deported. Immigration and Customs Enforcement has stated they wanted to arrest Lopex-Sanchez upon his release from jail, an allege they were not notified of his release date so they could arrange him for deportation. Additionally, DHS alleges local authorities have not been in compliance with the law for quite some time.

Republicans have seized on this tragedy, and have reissued a George H. Bush “Willie Horton” moment.

It was 1985 and Michael Dukakis was governor of Massachusetts when Willie Horton, a black man, and convicted felon of murder was released on a furlough. While out, he committed another crime of armed robbery and rape. During the presidential election between Democratic Dukakis and Republican Bush, Republicans released a scathing video about the program that showcased a menacing photo of Horton. They blamed the crime on Dukakis. Inferring Democrats protected criminals over law abiding citizens. It worked. He lost the presidential election.

Today, we are witnessing the same tactic with sanctuary cities. After learning of the San Francisco shooting, Donald Trump said, “This senseless and utterly deplorable act of violence committed by an illegal immigrant is yet another example of why we must secure our border immediately.” Needless to say, the Hispanic community is beyond exhausted with being scapegoats of one person’s crime they happen to share a race with. Trump has already been in the cross-hair with the Hispanic community over his racist remarks of Mexicans in his presidential speech, accusing them of being rapists (among other insults). In response, “Ugly Betty” actress America Ferrera wrote “Thank you, Mr. Trump! Remarks like yours will serve brilliantly to energize Latino voters and increase turnout on election day against you and any other candidate who runs on a platform of hateful rhetoric.”

Reviving “Willie Horton” in “sanctuary cities” will not birth a victory, as it once did in the nineties. In an op-ed by conservative S.E. Cupp on gay marriage, she discussed how conservatives need to apply “math and manners”.  Her advice then, rightly applies to this very subject, because once President George W. Bush received 40 percent of the Hispanic vote, yet in the last presidential election Romney won 27 percent. And having two Latino decedents has yet to warm Hispanics to Republicans. Neither Sen. Ted Cruz nor Sen. Marco Rubio supports a path to citizenship. Senator Rubio is famously aligned with helping to write bipartisanship immigration reform legislation, than later backtracking on it.

The Hill reports Ben Carson said, “No sanctuary cities,” and “I think that’s ridiculous. Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley wrote a scathing letter to Homeland Security, demanding accountability, “The American people deserve to understand why the government is tolerating cities and states that turn a blind eye to criminal aliens and those who violate our immigration laws.”

Republicans can no longer afford to ignore that Hispanics have voted 2-1 for Democrats in the last two election cycles. Republicans must end portraying minorities (in particular Hispanics) in a negative light to charge up the far-right base. It’s no longer the nineties. Republicans, if you want to win in 2016 lose the “Willie Horton” campaign tactics or prepare yourself for another Democratic President.