Published November 30, 2012
What does it say about the GOP’s outreach to the Latino community that the two distinguished members who finally bucked their party’s noxious anti-immigration sentiment have only days left in their Senate careers?
Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas and Jon Kyl of Arizona have represented their border states since Bill Clinton was president. The senior female Republican, Senator Hutchison, assumed office in June 1993. The powerful Minority Whip, Senator Kyl, has served since 1994 and his distinguished Senate tenure was preceded by eight years in the House.
Both have been otherwise fine legislators, moderate conservatives influential and fair-minded; but neither has done much since mid-Bush to alleviate the plight of the nation’s 11 million undocumented immigrants; many of whom reside in or pass through their respective states. Put another way, no two senators could top their familiarity with the issue of the undocumented yet neither has made any history when it comes to the 11 million.
Now retiring and immune to any primary competitors from the right, they are pathfinders for the GOP’s belated outreach to the 71 percent of Latinos who rejected their presidential candidate’s self-poisoning rhetoric on immigration.
Governor Romney called the DREAM Act a “handout;” he harshly attacked President Obama’s choice of the first Latina Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor who grew up in my Aunt Ana's building in The Bronx, and he enthusiastically endorsed for re-election Rep. Steve King (R-Io), who likened illegal immigration to a “slow moving holocaust” and a “slow moving terrorist attack.”
And Mitt Romney thought he could win 38 percent of Latinos by campaigning with Senator Marco Rubio on Calle Ocho in Miami’s Little Havana? Really?
Not a shy man, I have preached since writing “HisPanic” in 2008 that the Republican Party would destroy itself if it didn’t rein in the Tea Party and xenophobic others who spewed the anti-immigrant hatred that permeated cable news.
Sure it rated, and yes it reflected the prevailing and no doubt sincere sentiments of many, but it was factually one-sided, corrosive, divisive and it turned off 71 percent of citizen Latinos who decided on November 6th that enough sloppy language, stereotypical portrayals and SB1070’s was enough.
In 2008, after the first Latino-elected president Barack Obama, I said that if the GOP didn’t change and Latinos continued to vote at the same rate there may never be another Republican president. After the 2012 election, Larry Sabato of the University Of Virginia Center for Politics said similarly, “Either the Republicans begin to attract more Hispanics and Latinos…or they are headed the way of the dodo.”
So what about the outreach to Latinos, the bill just offered up by retiring senators Hutchison and Kyl? It is not bad. Called the "Achieve Act” it allows immigrant children brought here by their parents to get green cards. There is no clear path to citizenship, so it is sort of DREAM Act-lite.
Too bad it wasn’t proposed earlier in the careers of the esteemed representatives who are calling it a day in Washington and by the party they so loyally represented.