The Republican National Committee took a serious step toward reclaiming its big-tent-party status today, when it announced that it will spend millions this year on minority outreach and endorsed comprehensive immigration reform. It was a move toward reason and rationality, and a tiny hint that Republicans might be willing to make things work in Washington, DC.
Then Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Jeff Sessions (R-AL) showed up to spoil the party—and the Party. Almost as if they were deliberating sticking it to the RNC’s attempt to be more tolerant, Sessions—with Sen. David Vitter (R-LA)—spent his lunch break slamming President Obama’s new nominee for Secretary of Labor, a Latino civil rights defender who fought against anti-immigrant laws like Arizona’s SB 1070 and Maricopa County’s Sheriff Joe Arpaio. Then Sessions and Grassley used a Senate Judiciary Hearing on women, immigrants, children, and families to argue that keeping families together is not in America’s best interests—and that, in fact, we have too many immigrants already here.
Grassley started off with an opening statement that brownsplained* why people might want to come to the country…to a hearing chaired by an immigrant Senator and a witness panel with two members of immigrant families. He then waxed poetic about the “costs and benefits” of immigration (again: brownsplaining!), then claimed the real way to help immigrant women was to boost STEM visas (which isn’t even ‘splaining so much as, erm, off the mark). But his own GOP witnesses, a member of the ‘90s-era “Jordan Commission” and an opponent of H-1B visas, turned out to be less-than-stellar in helping Grassley make his case: Dr. Susan Martin of Georgetown (the former Jordan Commission member) told him she enthusiastically supported a “straightforward” path to legalization and said that one of the problems with 1986’s IRCA was that it had left too many immigrants out of the legalization process. Grassley refused to ask questions of anyone but his own witnesses, creating the spectacle of him only talking to the two white women on the panel…and ignoring the three women of color. On page 5, the RNC report today said “The Republican Party needs to stop talking to itself;” we guess Grassley didn’t read past page 4.
Then Sessions made Grassley look like, well, RNC chairman Reince Priebus. He started by emphasizing (literally, saying that he wanted to repeat himself to emphasize) that immigration policy should serve the interests of “AMERICA.” It was certainly an odd word to repeat over and over, especially since the panel had just been discussing why native-born children needed immigration reform to keep their parents here—until bearing in mind that, again, this was a panel led by women of color from immigrant families, whose interests must not count as “American.” Then he lectured the witnesses about how “just because you decide to come here doesn’t mean you get to bring your aging parent or your brother or sister,” and praised the Canadian system for prioritizing skilled labor over family reunification.
Sessions then asked Mee Moua if she believed the country had a right to decide who it should let in. Moua fired back that “the Asian-American community was the victim of the first Exclusion Acts in the 1880s, and we were the victim of discriminatory policies until the 1960s. We’re well aware.” She went on to school him on how education-based visas discriminate against women who don’t have access to education in many countries, and how such a system rips apart families and disadvantages children. Ultimately, Sessions started quoting George Borjas (of the anti-immigrant “think tank” Center for Immigration Studies) about how there are too many immigrants in the country, period—not just undocumented, not just family visaholders, but too many immigrants working legally in the United States.
Watch the video of Sessions below, courtesy of Think Progress:
With such a blatant attack on immigrants and minority families today, it’s a real question whether Sessions and Grassley have even seen the GOP report distributed today—or if they just don’t care. The RNC’s “Growth and Opportunity Report” (excerpted below) makes a real case for why Republicans MUST become more open-minded willing to reach out to Latinos and other voters of color. The likes of Sessions and Grassley, in comparison, seem content to wallow in their anti-immigrant intolerance, gleefully out-of-touch with a diversifying America and members of their own Party who are trying to make inroads.
Read the portion of the RNC’s report that Grassley and Sessions clearly forgot to, below:
If Hispanic Americans perceive that a GOP nominee or candidate does not want them in the United States (i.e. self-deportation), they will not pay attention to our next sentence. It does not matter what we say about education, jobs or the economy; if Hispanics think we do not want them here, they will close their ears to our policies. In the last election, Governor Romney received just 27 percent of the Hispanic vote. Other minority communities, including Asian and Pacific Islander Americans, also view the Party as unwelcoming. President Bush got 44 percent of the Asian vote in 2004; our presidential nominee received only 26 percent in 2012.
As one conservative, Tea-Party leader, Dick Armey, told us, “You can’t call someone ugly and expect them to go to the prom with you. We’ve chased the Hispanic voter out of his natural home.”
Except, in this case, the message immigrant families were getting loud and clear was to go home—and take their relatives with them.