At a lunchtime panel with the Hispanic Leadership Network, Susana Martinez, Brian Sandoval, and Jeb Bush sat down to talk about being governor of their respective states, and interestingly, how to talk to Latino voters about immigration.
While Jeb Bush has consistently been moderate on immigration, both Martinez and Sandoval have mishandled the issue in their careers, once again proving that the GOP has tried little to understand Latino voters. As we’ve warned them before, a candidate’s position on immigration matters far more to Latino voters than ethnic background.
Regardless, here’s what went down:
It’s possible for Republicans to win over Latino voters “if we just stop acting stupid,” said Governor Bush, reiterating a point that he has made over the last several days—that Republicans need to be more foresighted and less vindictive on their approaches to issues like immigration.
“As Republicans, we have to make sure that we don’t just visit Hispanics at election time,” Governor Martinez concurred. “They want to be made a part of this.”
Senator Marco Rubio — who earlier this year had his own mysterious plan for some kind of legislation for undocumented youth — spoke at a reception later that afternoon. He elaborated:
While this may not be the number one issue to the Latino community, it is a gateway issue. We in the Latino community know somebody, we love somebody, we are married to somebody affected by our immigration system. It’s a complicated problem, and I don’t have an easy solution. But I know that we will never solve this issue as long as it remains a political football.
Self-deportation re-emerged as a topic today after months of Mitt Romney avoiding that theme when former Florida Senator Mel Martinez volunteered the issue as one that needed to be rolled back by Republicans. When Think Progress asked Martinez whether Mitt Romney would continue to espouse self-deportation if he’s elected president, Martinez replied:
I don’t think so, no I really, really don’t. I think that campaigns are not the best place to make good policy, and primaries are probably the worst place. I think that Governor Romney will have a sensible view towards immigration, which I think hopefully will be good for the country.
(Note: This is just what Martinez thinks, but Mitt Romney has said differently, and we have it here in his very own words.)
Jeb Bush Jr., Governor Bush’s half-Latino son, said something similar at the Hispanic Leadership Network lunch: “I don’t believe in self-deportation,” he told America’s Voice. “I’m still trying to figure out what exactly that means.”
But more importantly, here’s something else that happened yesterday:
The Republicans passed a party platform — chiefly engineered by notoriously anti-immigrant Kris Kobach — that veered sharply right on many things, including immigration. It’s a platform that supports planks like mandatory E-Verify, self-deportation, and laws like Arizona’s SB 1070. The platform is also against granting status to DREAMers altogether — not just temporary status, as Jose Fuentes said in this video yesterday when I interviewed him.
These are the policies that the Republican Party is running on. This is still the Party that these Latino politicians are representing, and it’s one in which their sympathies have no hold. But by giving cover to the anti-Latino policies of Kobach, Romney, Lamar Smith, and the like, they’re providing a smokescreen for a brand of extremism that risks becoming law.