Editor’s Note: This article is an English translation from the original Spanish article, published on Univision.com, by Jorge Ramos. You can read it, en español, here.
Since Ronald Reagan, any Republican candidate that gets less than a third of the Latino vote will lose the election.
Dear Republicans: You will lose the Hispanic vote in the next presidential election. President Barack Obama will receive millions more Latino votes than your candidate Mitt Romney. But that’s not the worst part. I’m writing to let you know that unless you change your anti-immigrant positions, you might be sentenced to losing the White House for several decades.
The last poll from Latino Decisions gives president Obama 70 % of Hispanics’ intended votes, and Romney only 22%. Other polls show similar results. And here’s the problem: since Ronald Reagan, any Republican candidate that gets less than a third of the Latino vote (or 33%) loses the election. Will it be different this year?
What happened to you? Former President George W. Bush left a terrible economic crisis and started an unnecessary war in Iraq. But he understood the electoral importance of Latinos. That’s why he won 44% of the Hispanic vote in 2004.
Bush achieved the highest percentage ever received by a Republican presidential candidate because of his support of immigration reform. When Bush pushed the issue at the end of his administration, it was the Republicans in Congress who, for the most part, voted against and killed immigration reform. Hispanics haven’t forgotten that.
Mitt Romney will be the first Republican presidential candidate of the modern era who opposes legalization of undocumented immigrants. That doesn’t get you Hispanic votes. Furthermore, your idea of making life impossible for undocumented people in order for them to self-deport is too cruel. The United States should not be like Arizona.
Latinos don’t forget that it was you, the Republicans, who approved Arizona’s anti-immigrant law SB 1070. Other similar laws in Alabama and Georgia, among other states, were also approved by you. Resembling Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who has been accused of racism and discrimination by the federal government, isn’t good for you. It makes you look like enemies to Hispanics.
I understand your concern for a safe border and an immigration system that works, but those arguments sound like an excuse when you refuse to support the DREAM Act, which would legalize undocumented youth. These young people – over 2 million – are already here; they’ve studied in U.S. schools and were brought to this country by no fault of their own. Yet you don’t want to help them. That goes against the American tradition of opening your arms to vulnerable foreigners in need.
It’s also important
Of course there are other issues that worry Hispanics. Polls tell us that
the economy, jobs, education and access to health care are the most important issues for Hispanics, above immigration. However, immigration is a symbolic issue, and defines who is with us and who is against us. You, in many states, have decided to be against us.
I’m afraid, I have to tell you, you’ve missed out on a historic opportunity to capture millions of Latino votes. You could have taken advantage of President Obama’s huge mistake by not fulfilling his electoral promise of presenting immigration reform to Congress during his first year in office. But you didn’t.
You, who praise Reagan so much, are so far from one of his principal ideas. He signed an amnesty into law in 1986. Reagan used to say that Hispanics were really Republicans, they just didn’t know it. There’s some truth in that.
Your moral precepts are very similar to Hispanics’. You, like Latin Americans, are suspicious of big government. You are opposed to abortion. And you have great trust and hope in family, God, and the transforming power of individuals. Well, you have wasted all of these similarities and, in turn, you have presented yourselves in the last few years as enemies to immigrants and therefore, enemies to many Hispanics as well.
The number two
Paul Ryan, your Vice Presidential candidate, also doesn’t have much to contribute to win the Hispanic vote. He opposes broad legalization, voted against the Dream Act, and his position on the Cuban embargo has changed so much that he runs the risk of even losing a part of the Cuban American vote. By picking Ryan you have resigned yourselves to losing the Latino vote. What a shame.
In the United States we need a strong debate to resolve the issue of the 11 million undocumented people, high unemployment among Hispanics (11%), and the grave high school drop-out rates among our students. We need you in that debate. But for now, it seems that you are only advocating the most extreme positions.
I’m sure you’re not going to like this letter – as the Democrats won’t like the one I’m writing for them next week, either. But before your convention in Tampa, it’s time to put the cards on the table.
Yes, you are going to lose the Latino vote in 2012. And you have done everything to deserve that result. But your dilemma will be what to do in order not to lose Hispanic support for generations to come.