Guy W. Farmer: GOP would be wise to downplay immigration issue
August 18, 2013
I have a simple, straightforward question for Hispanic-American voters this morning: Do you really think the best way to achieve “comprehensive immigration reform” is to legalize the status of millions of illegal immigrants? That’s the plan proposed by President Obama, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and the Senate’s bipartisan “Gang of Eight.”
Although the Gang of Eight’s immigration bill passed the Senate, it’s stalled in the GOP-dominated House. President Obama is again touting his alleged plan to revive the nation’s economy — which involves billions of dollars worth of “investments,” the politically correct word for spending. He isn’t saying much about comprehensive immigration reform.
Why? For one reason, many Republicans don’t trust the Obama administration to implement the border-enforcement provisions of the Gang of Eight’s bill. They remember President Reagan’s 1986 blanket amnesty, which attracted millions more “undocumented workers.” Reagan also promised stepped-up border enforcement, which never happened.
And how can we trust an administration that sues states that want to help the feds enforce our nation’s immigration laws? Instead of offering cooperation, Obama’s “progressive” attorney general, Eric Holder, sues states that don’t share his benign view of border enforcement. Meanwhile, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano resigned in the midst of the immigration debate as her hometown newspaper, The Arizona Republic, accused her of withholding information about her department’s questionable border security-efforts. She never mentioned that Mexican drug cartels now control much of the illegal immigration across our southern border.
Many Hispanic-American voters, like my late wife Consuelo, a native of Mexico, resent illegal immigrants. They wonder why the federal government wants to facilitate American citizenship for illegals when they had to do it the right way. Although the Gang of Eight proposal has similar provisions, I don’t trust the feds to enforce them. If they were truly enforcing the English-language requirement, states wouldn’t have to print election ballots in Spanish and 50 other foreign languages.
A Hispanic Washington Post columnist, Esther Cepeda, wrote recently that “both parties need to stop calculating what a win or a loss (on immigration reform) will mean to their prospects for the 2014 midterms and the 2016 presidential election. … Conventional wisdom posits that the GOP needs to pass reform that includes citizenship in order to stand even a slim chance of attracting future Hispanic voters,” but maybe not.
Ms. Cepeda cited recent polls by the Pew Research Center showing that just 60 percent of Hispanic-Americans think illegal immigrants should be offered a “path to citizenship,” while 34 percent said they should be offered legal residence and nothing more.
GOP candidates should take a page from Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s Hispanic voter playbook by emphasizing economic issues and calling for lower taxes and smaller government. Nevada’s popular Hispanic Gov. Brian Sandoval, a moderate Republican, has taken a similar approach by appealing to independent voters and downplaying immigration. That’s a winning formula in Nevada and around the country.
Guy W. Farmer is a retired diplomat.