Last week Michael Steele, Maryland’s former lieutenant governor, became the leader of the GOP. As Mr. Steele himself put it during his first interview as the new Republican National Committee Chair on Fox News Sunday, “I think it’s an opportunity for us now to move this party forward on the ideas that matter to the voters, and so I’m not in the mood to have people stand in the way and say, “We can’t. We’ve always done it this way. It’s impossible to do.”
Unfortunately, Steele’s promising start, indicating that he wants to move the party forward, hit a brick wall two minutes later, as evidenced by this exchange with Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace:
WALLACE: Does the GOP need to change its position on immigration reform, guest workers, path to citizenship, to reach out and say to Hispanics, “You have a home in the Republican Party?.”
STEELE: No. Well, I think the GOP’s position on immigration is very much the position of many, many Hispanics who are in this country.
WALLACE: Well, wait a minute.
STEELE: Well, hold up. Hold up.
WALLACE: Wait. Is the GOP position the position of George Bush and John McCain, which is for immigration reform, or…
STEELE: The GOP…
WALLACE: … or is it the position that was build the fence?
STEELE: The GOP’s position is secure our borders first. Let us know and let us make sure the American people know that we’ve taken care of the important business of dealing with illegal immigration into this country.
You cannot begin to address the concerns of the people who are already here unless and until you have made certain that no more are coming in behind them.
WALLACE: So no change in the position of the party.
STEELE: No change in the position on the party on that.
WALLACE: You are one of the…
STEELE: How we messaged that is where we messed up the last time. We were pegged as being insensitive, anti-immigrant, and nothing could be further from the truth, because you talk to those leaders in the Hispanic community, they will tell you the same thing.
So, according to Steele, the problem isn’t the GOP’s position on immigration reform, it’s their “message”? Republicans in Congress worked to pass the infamous “Sensenbrenner bill” in 2005 that would have made 12 million undocumented immigrants into felons, blocked bipartisan attempts at passing comprehensive reform in 2006 and 2007, and drove millions of Latinos and other Americans to the street (and ultimately the voting booth), and Steele still thinks that a slight change in tone will bring Latinos back to the GOP?
Even leading Republicans think the Party needs to change its attitude towards immigration. Karl Rove in Newsweek said, “Hispanics dropped from 44 percent Republican in 2004 to 31 percent in 2008. The GOP won’t be a majority party if it cedes the young or Hispanics to Democrats. Republicans must find a way to support secure borders, a guest-worker program and comprehensive immigration reform that strengthens citizenship, grows our economy and keeps America a welcoming nation. An anti-Hispanic attitude is suicidal.”
Paco Fabián, Communications Director at America’s Voice, stated: “The results of the election are clear. Latinos voters clearly ran away from the Republican brand, in part because of the Party’s hostile rhetoric on immigration reform over the past few years. The GOP is now at a crossroads. Will the Party try to right the ship and realize that it needs to change its approach as well as its message? Or will Republican Party leaders continue to scapegoat immigrants and become a regional party for decades to come? We hope Michael Steele changes his tune and becomes a catalyst for real change, not a mouthpiece for the status quo.”
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America’s Voice — Harnessing the power of American voices and American values to win common sense immigration reform.