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Carly Fiorina's Rhetoric on Immigration Does Not Reflect What a California Republican Should Know About Latino Vote

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Carly Fiorina, the former CEO of Hewlett Packard who lost her Senate challenge to Barbara Boxer in 2010, looks like she’s running for president.  In a field that is sure to become crowded with GOP senatorial and gubernatorial heavyweights, some are already writing her off as an underdog.  Our interest in Fiorina stems from the fact that she’s from California — a state with historical lessons that Republicans should really pay more attention to, ever since Republican Governor Pete Wilson went so hard on anti-immigrant policy there that the electorate seems to have swung away from the GOP permanently.  (Read more about that here.)

Republicans on the national level are in deep trouble with Latinos.  In her presidential run, Fiorina has the potential to take away from her home state what Republicans have learned from Pete Wilson and the “Prop 187” effect, and run an inclusive campaign that talks about solutions and recognizes the contributions of immigrants.  Unfortunately, her past history on immigration suggests she would be more of a Mitt-Romney-lite: cognizant of the fact that she needs to attract Latino voters, but saying all the wrong things anyway.

Here’s what you need to know about Carly Fiorina and immigration:

  • We’ll start with the good news.  She supports the DREAM Act.  In her first debate with Sen. Boxer in 2010, she said: “I would support the DREAM Act because I do not believe that we can punish children who through no fault of their own are here trying to live the American dream.”

Unfortunately, that’s it for Fiorina and inclusive rhetoric.  The rest of her immigration positions are decidedly more extremist:

  • She does not support a pathway to citizenship for immigrants already here.  “I do not support amnesty,” she said in 2010.
  • She supported Arizona’s anti-immigrant state law SB 1070.  “I understand why Arizona” passed the law, she said, adding it was because of “fear and frustration.”  “The people of Arizona did what they felt they had to do.”  An SF Gate blogger pointed out how that comment sounds to Latinos: “The ‘fear’ comment was telling. Fear of who, Carly? What kind of fear? Fear of Latinos?”
  • She is one of the Republicans trying to blame President Obama for the lack of immigration reform.  This year she said of the President: “He sunk comprehensive immigration reform in 2007. He did nothing to push forward immigration reform when he had the Senate, the House and the White House. He said in ’11 and ’12 he couldn’t do anything. And then he delayed his action for the elections. Unbelievable cynicism.”  This despite the fact that it’s been the Republican House that has killed immigration reform this year, with Obama being the one to bend over backwards to try and push them toward a vote, before finally announcing an executive order that gave relief to 5 million immigrants last month.

In her 2010 race against Boxer, Fiorina actually won fewer Latino voters than Meg Whitman, who famously threw her undocumented nanny under the bus.  Fiorina won 29% of the Latino vote while Whitman won 31%.  In her presidential run, will Fiorina understand that she needs to stop alienating such a fast-growing demographic of voters?  Or will her campaign simply not reflect the lessons she should’ve learned in California?