The Right Opinion

GOP Folly

By Linda Chavez · Nov. 9, 2012

There may be no single, simple explanation why Mitt Romney lost the election this week – but clearly the perception that the GOP is anti-Hispanic didn't help. For years, I've been warning my fellow conservatives that their position on immigration would be costly, not just politically but for the economy as well.

The election results definitively proved the former. The Hispanic vote was decisive in denying Romney a win in Colorado, Nevada, Florida and possibly Virginia. Without winning more Hispanic votes, the Republican Party may be doomed to permanent minority status.

Hispanics are the fastest growing population in the country. As a group they are younger, have slightly higher birthrates and greater longevity than other groups (80.6 years compared to 78.1 years for non-Hispanic whites), which means the demographic shifts to more Hispanic and fewer non-Hispanic white voters will only increase over time, even if all immigration were halted today.

In 2012, Hispanic voters made up 10 percent of the electorate, up 1 percent over 2008, while the non-Hispanic white vote declined by 2 percent in the same period to 72 percent. But this demographic shift would not necessarily doom Republican chances of winning the White House were it not for the party's insistence on alienating Hispanic citizens by pursuing draconian measures against illegal immigrants.

Most of my fellow conservatives don't understand why Hispanic citizens are so offended at the party's position. What part of illegal don't you understand, they ask. We aren't against legal immigration, they say, just illegal immigration. Indeed, Mitt Romney tried this line by saying he'd award a green card to any foreign student graduating with a degree in science, technology, engineering or math from a U.S. school.

So let me try to explain. First, even for someone like me whose family has been here for centuries, the tone of the debate on illegal immigration has been unsettling. Illegal immigration is down to historically low levels, the lowest in 40 years. Border security is higher than it has ever been in the nation's history, and deportations are at a modern high. Still, the GOP platform and Romney himself insisted that those illegal immigrants who are living here – some of them for decades – must self-deport.

I doubt there is a Hispanic anywhere who doesn't know at least one individual or family this policy would affect. Illegal immigrants are not numbers – they're people we know.

Telling workers, friends and family members, we don't want you here – no matter how productive and law-abiding you are and no matter how long you've lived here – sounds very much to us as if we're being told the same thing.

Whenever I write on immigration, I receive emails and letters inviting me to go back to Mexico, where I “belong.” Never mind that the last person in my family from Mexico left there in 1701 – and I don't speak Spanish.

If Republicans want to get back to winning 35 percent or more of Hispanic votes – the high is 44 percent – we've got to change not just the rhetoric but also the policies we pursue. Republicans had the chance to support the Dream Act, which would have granted legal status to illegal immigrants who came here as children and have lived most of their lives as Americans.

This should have been an easy call – but the stranglehold that anti-immigrant groups have on GOP elected officials pushed them to oppose this sensible and humane legislation. President Obama took advantage of Republican folly and issued an executive order that accomplished much of what a law might have. In doing so, he managed to re-ignite Hispanic enthusiasm for him, which had waned considerably since 2008, and win re-election despite a dismal record.

The illegal immigration problem is not difficult to solve if Republicans choose to do so. It means passing a flexible legal immigration law that would allow the numbers of workers to fluctuate with the economy's need for their skills. But this means admitting more legal farm and poultry workers, hotel and restaurant workers, laborers and domestic workers, as well as scientists, engineers and mathematicians because we need people at both ends of the skills spectrum.

If the Republican Party insists on blocking such legal immigration reforms, it will go the way of the Whigs.

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12 Comments

d.w.hudson in Michigan said:

If you think the illegal immigration "debate" is about the GOP winning the election, you are out of your mind. Our nation has the highest numbers of legal immigration in the world. And no doubt the highest illegal immigration in the world. We have more than 23 million AMERICANS citizens unemployed, with 47 million AMERICAN citizens on food stamps, millions of AMERICAN graduates looking for jobs, a maxed out infrastructure, limited fresh water supplies, 16 TRILLION dollar defecit with over 120 TRILLION dollars in unfunded liabilities for AMERICAN citizens, and we're borrowing 2 out of every 3 dollars spent. Illegal aliens cost AMERICAN taxpayers BILLIONS and you want more? This isn't about the GOP. This is about financial survival and maintaining a nation. Grow up.

Friday, November 9, 2012 at 7:10 AM

sfj in Alabama said:

Let me get this right - We should ignore the illegals because they may have "legal" relatives who vote? We try to "buy" the votes of the "legals" (and sometimes "illegals") by ignoring our laws, forget about unemployment, welfare, medicaid and all of the other issues facing this country just to have cheap labor and the "support" of the hispanic community? If I was a naturalized citizen - from any country - I would be mad as hell about how easily illegals waltz into the country and utilize our benefits and social safety net. This country is on the wrong track - everyone knows it - and will cease to exist within 2 generations. Adios US of A - it was nice while it lasted.

Friday, November 9, 2012 at 9:26 AM

JJStryder in Realville said:

Pandering to special interest groups makes us no better than democrats. That is what lost us the House and the senate the last time. With outrageous spending they acted like democrats. People will look at us and say" I'll just vote for the real thing!".
Our message lost because it was distorted by our media culture. How many times do we have to be trashed in movies, music, TV etc. More people watch American idol type shows than watched the debates.

Friday, November 9, 2012 at 10:04 AM

Mike in Southwest Idaho said:

We can debate all day about how legal immigration should be handled, but there is no room for compromise on illegal immigration. The rule of law must be upheld. Here is what often occurs when a person enters the USA illegally. When they cross the border illegally, from whatever country they might originate, they commit one criminal act, which often soon begets another. For instance, Identity theft for employment, which requires possession of forged social security cards, and resident alien cards, and offering false documents to employers under penalty of perjury. There are actual victims that suffer loss from these crimes and they are from all walks of life. There is an organized criminal network in place to provide these documents and instruct people how to violate the laws once in the country. They purchase vehicles via identity theft and then default on the loans thereby defrauding the lender and the person whose name, ssn, etc. that they stole. I realize American citizens commit these same acts, but nobody is protecting them from prosecution, or making them out to be the victim or making excuses for them, and they did so out of choice. Illegal immigrants have put themselves in a position where they essentially have no choice because of the first illegal act. Sorry, but illegal immigration is a bad idea and should be discouraged.

Friday, November 9, 2012 at 10:24 AM

Jim in Alabama said:

Mona, well written, incredibly important. I've been on the fence and so I get both sides. But I am climbing down off my fence to stand with you. I'm also getting closer to thinking that the end to the drug war is the same way as we ended the Boot-legging business. Good law is the answer to crime that does harm, directly, immediately. Demonstratively strong and faithful culture is the answer to problems that weaken culture.

We are a nation of laws and we must be ever so. But we live in America, the greatest nation on earth, a place people will crawl over glass to reach.
For the longest time we were open to all comers. The law didn't hinder our forefathers whose desire to come here was quite the same as these noble friends from the south.

It is high time the major players of the Republican Party convene a convention of sorts on this question and play it out in public. It need not be a squishy apology session. It should be a public effort aimed at establishing a winning plank for the Republican Party. The premise must be what benefits America. And it must be understood that the Hispanic vote for the conservative cause is, as you so eloquently point out, is an utterly essential element to keeping intact the very foundations of our freedom. Conservative Hispanics should play a major role, in establishing a viable position and in bringing it to fruition on the national stage, again without apology.

Honesty is not the same as pandering. We want your votes because we want our freedom. That is honest. What do we need to do for you to join us? That follows naturally.

The same should be done for the people of Color, and all others, in our desperate cities.
Asking what are the most inclusive solutions to the decay brought upon our cities by successive corrupt Democratic administrations.

The Republican Party must permanently cease to be seen as the white guys who grab Hispanics, jail them and throw them out. It must become impossible to tar us as the party who favors incarceration of an immense
percentage of the black population on drug and motor vehicle and paternity charges, while turning its back on the decent folks who live and struggle in the inner cities.

Friday, November 9, 2012 at 12:03 PM

Craig in CA replied:

I absolutely agree! My grandparents came here jobless and found work as gardeners. Their kids became school-teachers, engineers and productive citizens. Men served in the military. Now, as a man with immigrant grandparents, I am a productive, tax-paying retired military citizen.

We, as a party, MUST stop demonizing folks striving for "the american dream".

Friday, November 9, 2012 at 5:15 PM

Jim in Alabama said:

Let me just re-iterate.

It is time for the Republican Party to publicly and forcefully state its determination, going forward, to place conservative Blacks and Hispanics and the interests of their people at the center of all efforts to win political power. It is time for the Republican Party to claim its rightful place as the friend to Freedom and the enemy of Slavery.

And it is time to move out in full force against the Racism which motivates the Democratic Party.

Friday, November 9, 2012 at 12:12 PM

Tim Nunan in Russellville, TN said:

Illegal is illegal. Why compromise priciples?

Friday, November 9, 2012 at 2:50 PM

Jim in Alabama replied:

I dunno either. No rush to figure it out, though. We got four more years don't we?

Let's start here. A hundred plus years back, say, if Canada had had the muscle and had taken about a quarter of our land mass. And we'd been kinda half baked ever since, flippin' governments like hotcakes. And all the jobs were in Canada now and lots of them on land that used to be ours and though we weren't LEGALLY allowed to just traipse across the border there were tons of folks there in those old United States of Canada, y'know, in places like St Louis and Sacramento and Dallas, that just loved to pay us under the table, even though they weren't LEGALLY allowed to. So it just so happens, that what we got left with, was almost all Catholic and now you gotta feed all seven kids. How are you gonna feel about that border. And if you get across and stay around a few years how are you going to feel about the Pols trying to make hay squawking about throwing you out and ten million of your fellow Yankee Americans that did the same. How are your legal immigrant Yankee Americans going to feel about those hypocritical Pols determined to rip up your family for some filthy votes. And how can anyone trust those clowns to stand on that "Principal" and loose the most important election of the century because that's where they stupidly stood?
But you just think about it. Like I said, we have lots of time.

Friday, November 9, 2012 at 3:42 PM

Wayne in Hinesville, GA said:

I am tired of hearing the term: "Illegal immigration". Crossing the border illegally does not make you an immigrant. It makes you an illegal alien. Caving into one group or another is nothing more than capitulation. If we do that we might as well join the Demorats and disband the Republican party.

Friday, November 9, 2012 at 2:56 PM

Torp44 in Ione, Wa. replied:

I think you're right about disbanding the Republican party.....It's every bit as much at fault for where we're at as the Democrats are. Actually, since the entire country seems to have fallen asleep anyway, who's gonna be able to stop the ruin that is almost upon us? America has now given itself and the world true evidence that it is too stupid to survive.

Friday, November 9, 2012 at 4:35 PM

David Thompson in Bellville, TX said:

What racist pap this is.
"I doubt there is a Hispanic anywhere who doesn't know at least one individual or family this policy would affect."
Here in Texas, I doubt there is anyone who doesn't know . . .
But what is "affecting" these "individuals" and "families" is their violation of the law. As it does other criminals.
Don't get that mixed up with real racism. Chavez, whose family has been here since 1701, should be able to handle the pigs who are telling her to "go home." She's had plenty of time - 300 years - to develop an effective tactic.

Friday, November 9, 2012 at 6:19 PM