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The Three Amigos On Immigration: Reps. Smith (TX), Gallegly (CA), and King (IA)

by Frank Sharry on 03/04/2011 at 6:00pm

Steve King, Elton Gallegly, and Lamar SmithThe leaders of House Mass Deportation Caucus, Reps. Smith, Gallegly, and King, are not only driving the GOP immigration strategy, they are driving their party off of a political cliff.

Those “Three Amigos” are proving to be the GOP’s lead strategists not only on immigration reform –  but Latino politics.Saner heads have tried to prevail on the Republican side, but to no avail. The efforts of Jeb Bush, Tom Ridge, and even Newt Gingrich to get the Republican Party to move away from anti-immigrant policies and rhetoric alienating Hispanic voters has hit a brick wall — built by Smith, Gallegly and King.

Based on the recent House hearings on immigration and their frequent press statements, the Three Amigos seem to be pursuing a two-pronged strategy: 1) promote legislation that they hope will drive millions of immigrants out of the country; and 2) convince Republicans that Latino support for the GOP is increasing – in part because of their harsh policies towards immigrants.

Somewhere, smart Republicans — those who understand that the only way to retake the White House is to win 40% of the Latino vote — are wincing.  This dual strategy is going to drive away Latino voters for decades. Anyone who doesn’t think so should ask former Governor Pete Wilson how Proposition 187 worked for the GOP’s Latino recruitment effort.

Rep. Smith is glowingly depicted in a new George Will column as “immigration’s taskmaster” and in favor of “attrition through enforcement.”  That’s the new catch-phrase pushed by the nativist Tanton network. But what does “attrition through enforcement” really mean?  It means ramping up enforcement at all levels so that life becomes so unbearable for undocumented immigrants that those who don’t get picked up and deported pick up and leave on their own.  In other words, Rep. Smith wants 11 million undocumented immigrants forced out of the country.  A more honest name for this strategy is “mass deportation.”

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