The reviews continue to pour in about last week’s Republican presidential primary debate and the consensus is clear – the GOP’s continued mishandling of the immigration issue threatens their chances in the general election, especially with respect to reaching the 40% threshold with Latino voters. Among the new reactions to the debate and other developments from over the weekend:
The “Border-First” Non-Answer Doesn’t Convince Anyone
In a hard-hitting editorial criticizing the GOP field on immigration, The Washington Post noted:
If a majority of the GOP aspirants agreed on anything, it was that nothing meaningful can be done about the nation’s dysfunctional immigration system and the presence of 11 million undocumented immigrants until the southern border is “secure.”
And as Texas Gov. Rick Perry asserted, “It is not safe on that border.” That sounds very grave.
There’s just one problem: The border today is more secure than it has been in years… In truth, then, the real message on immigration from most of the candidates is this: We can’t fix the broken system, or deal with undocumented immigrants until, well, ever. Because even if we understand that 11 million people cannot be deported and must be granted some form of “amnesty” (the dreaded word!), our conservative base will punish us if we admit it, let alone undertake it.
This answer also fails to convince Latino voters – June 2011 polling from Latino Decisions and impreMedia found that by a 55% – 30% margin, Latino voters said GOP candidates use the “border first” answer to “block action” on immigration reform instead of representing a “legitimate concern.”
“These Guys Don’t Like Us”
Miami Herald syndicated columnist Andres Oppenheimer also noted the primary field’s lack of a honesty when dealing with the immigration issue, strides that have been made on border security, and the need for a real solution to undocumented immigration. But Oppenheimer took it a step further, describing how Latino voters in particular view the candidates’ posturing:
Like many Latin American immigrants watching the Sept. 7 televised debate among Republican hopefuls, I drew a clear-cut conclusion after the show – these guys don’t like us…My opinion: In their quest for support of their party’s right wing in the primaries, top Republican hopefuls have given up on the Hispanic vote. That’s likely to cost their party the 2012 elections.
GOP Latino Outreach Strategy – Cozy Up to Sheriff Joe Arpaio?
In another sign that the leading Republican contenders can’t help themselves when tempted to tack hard right on immigration in the primary, the Arizona Republic reports that notorious anti-Latino Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Maricopa County (Arizona) has welcomed calls and overtures from the leading Republican contenders, including Gov. Rick Perry, Gov. Mitt Romney, and Rep. Michele Bachmann. Undoubtedly, these candidates are trying to shore up their anti-immigrant bona fides by receiving the blessing of the notorious Arpaio. Without question, an endorsement from Arpaio will be used by Democrats against the GOP nominee with Latino voters, and to huge effect.
The Republican Party hasn’t learned its lesson when it comes to the political consequences of hard line immigration policies. Instead of tacking hard right in the primary, hiding behind vacuous “border first” non-answers, embracing the Bull Connor of our generation and alienating Latino voters in the process, the Republican field should actually try changing their approach to immigration policy to embrace a practical series of reforms that are broadly supported by the broad majority of American voters.