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Opinion

Opinion

GOP stands alienating Hispanic voters

January 31, 2012

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Republican hopeful Newt Gingrich, under pressure from his party’s establishment, pulled a Spanish-language ad in which he had accused his rival Gov. Mitt Romney of being “anti-immigrant.” But was the ad really unfair?

The question will not go away, and will haunt Republicans for the remainder of the race if Romney wins the Republican nomination. President Barack Obama’s campaign will surely make the most of it.

Gingrich yanked the ad, which claimed that Romney is “the most anti-immigration candidate,” after conservative Hispanic Sen. Marco Rubio complained that it was “inaccurate” and “inflammatory.” Gingrich said he was withdrawing that ad out of respect for the Florida Senator, but did not retract from the its content in later interviews and public debates leading to Tuesday’s Florida Republican primary.

Hours later, in Thursday’s CNN debate, Romney responded that the ad was “simply inexcusable,” and defined himself as a “pro-legal immigration” candidate.

So who is right? The fact is that both Romney and Gingrich have used a hard-line rhetoric against immigrants in the Iowa and South Carolina primaries, and have softened their rhetoric somewhat in recent days as their campaigns shifted to Florida, where 13 percent of voters are Hispanic. But pro-immigration advocates say Romney has taken the most extreme positions on immigration.

Consider:

l On deportations: Romney said at the Dec. 10, 2011, debate in Iowa that the estimated 11 million undocumented people living in the country should be given a “transition period” to “settle their affairs and then return home.” He later described it as a “self-deportation” plan.

Gingrich responded that he would allow people who have lived here for 25 years and have strong ties to the community to apply for U.S. residency, although not for citizenship. That’s more realistic, and more “humane,” he said.

l On Arizona, Alabama and South Carolina’s harsh anti-immigration laws, which allow local police to ask people for their immigration papers under certain circumstances, both Romney and Gingrich have embraced them. But Romney on Jan. 11 got the endorsement of Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, the legal architect of Arizona-styled anti-immigration laws, and called him “a true leader on securing our borders.”

l On undocumented college students: Romney and Gingrich have opposed the Dream Act — a bill that would give legal status to soldiers and college students who were brought to this country as children by no fault of their own — and said they would veto it. Both now say they would make an exception with those who serve in the military.

Most pro-immigration advocates, while disliking both Republican front-runners, say they dislike Romney the most.

“Romney’s self-deportation strategy is an ugly plan aimed at harassing undocumented immigrants until they flee the country,” says Frank Sharry, head of the America’s Voice advocacy group. “It leads to the institutionalized abuse of hardworking immigrants, and to widespread discrimination against Latinos”

My opinion: Romney, and to a lesser degree Gingrich, are badly hurting the Republican Party’s chances in November by alienating Hispanic voters. They come across as pandering to xenophobes by playing up the anti-immigration theme even though illegal immigration has slowed dramatically since the 2008 U.S. recession.

And Romney’s argument that he is not “anti-immigration,” but “pro-legal immigration,” is deceiving. There is no realistic way of achieving “self-deportation” of 11 million people without turning America into a police state.

And there will be no realistic way of stopping the flow of undocumented immigrants unless the U.S. visa system is expanded to accommodate people who are being hired by U.S. employers to fill jobs that Americans won’t do. It now takes at least 18 years for a Mexican migrant, and up to 70 years — yes, you read right — for a highly skilled Indian immigrant to get a U.S. visa, immigration advocacy groups say.

I know, every time I write this I get swamped with angry tweets from furious conservatives who call me a liberal “open-borders” advocate. They should not listen to me, but to former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who cannot be accused of being a Commie. In a Jan. 25 interview with CNN, Bush regretted “the tone” of Republicans’ rhetoric on immigration, adding that “I don’t think a party can aspire to be the majority party if it’s the old white guy party.”

He is right. I would have only added that, especially in Romney’s case, what’s offensive to most Hispanics is not just his tone, but his anti-immigrant message. Unless he changes it, Gingrich’s ad cannot be called unfair.

— Andres Oppenheimer is a Latin America correspondent for the Miami Herald. His email is aoppenheimer@miamiherald.com

Comments

jaywalker 2 years, 10 months ago

As far as I know, there are no "anti-immigrant" politicians, just those that are against illegal immigrants. And rightfully so. We need to change the visa requirements, find ways to document all the workers, do something....... but pretending through the entire piece that "those white guys" are essentially against immigration altogether is dishonest and not just a little despicable.

cato_the_elder 2 years, 10 months ago

Corrected headline: "GOP stands alienating left-wing Hispanic voters who are active Democrats and despise anyone of Hispanic origin who is a Republican."

jayhawklawrence 2 years, 10 months ago

Why do Republicans take so many extreme positions?

I am surprised by Romney's position. I was hoping he might be the sane one of the bunch, but maybe they're all insane.

I don't know why we can't seem to fix anything that's broken in this country.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 2 years, 10 months ago

"Well, I would argue we have let the 10% on each extreme drive the debate by shouting and not thinking,"

Certainly, the most extreme elements of the Republican Party have driven the debate over the last 30 years, but there is no counterpart on the left that has had any impact on public policy over that period of time.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 2 years, 10 months ago

" I was hoping he might be the sane one of the bunch, but maybe they're all insane."

You can't be (publicly) sane and win Republican primaries.

storm 2 years, 10 months ago

Gandalf's headline suggestion better fits this discombobulated article. Any thinking person knows undocumented immigrants can not vote so how does this offend a senator and US citizens who are Hispanic? This article is yellow journalism.

yourworstnightmare 2 years, 10 months ago

The GOP just can't help themselves.

They have a tremendous opportunity with black and hispanic communities, which tend to be rather conservative.

However, the GOP just can't get over the racism thing.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 2 years, 10 months ago

Pity the plight of the poor, downtrodden white guy.

Alex Parker 2 years, 10 months ago

I removed, as I did earlier with gudpoynt's comment, it because its blanket generalizations border on trolling. If you see a comment that you think violates the terms of service, please flag it. That ensures I see it.

Such overarching generalizations - on any side of the political spectrum - do not serve a purpose and do not contribute to an intelligent discussion.

jafs 2 years, 10 months ago

It's absolutely stalking - you should report it to the authorities.

Linda Endicott 2 years, 10 months ago

I see those kinds of posts on these forums all the time...and they're usually done by the same posters, over and over...

Why are they not deleted, and why are these same posters still allowed to remain on the forums? Especially the ones who have used multiple names over the years...and have been banned with all the previous names used...

Do you only delete posts that are flagged?

Mike Ford 2 years, 10 months ago

maybe they all ought to follow newt to the moon where their conversations??? are considered intelligent because no one else is there. Just like on here some politicians invent nonsense that disconnected voters gravitate towards in the hopes or recreating an america before civil rights excedera in 2012. Talking about a bunch of nothing and talking as if Fidel Castro is already dead is soooooo intelligent. Funny thing is this....Cubans pretty much have asylum as they land on the Florida shores and Puerto Ricans are US Citizens due to the commonwealth status of Puerto Rico.....so who is the GOP speaking to in that community....unfortunately they're speaking to euro -spaniards who see the darker indigenous peoples as pawns of exploitation just as the gop does here. I took Survey of Latin America at Washburn 20 years ago and learned about the encomienda and peonage system which exploits indios as we're called there and financially enslaves them which is why they come here only to be as exploited by americans as they were the wealthy euro-spaniards who've done this since the 16th century. If the Monroe Doctrine actually worked maybe there would be equality is Meso and South America but that will definitely never happen as the euro-spaniards have been doing for centuries what the gop wants now.....1% in control and 99% bowing down in peonage.

Armstrong 2 years, 10 months ago

The only ones trying to alienate the Hispanic vote is the Obamedia. If anyone paid attention, all candidates and Obama himself supporetd L E G A L immigration. Our pompus postsers highlight their gullability at every utterance of what they are told to think, it's pretty comical to see daily and sad at the same time.

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