Please note the following column was translated from Spanish to English and is available for reprint as long as the author is given proper credit. This column is available online in Spanish here.
Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush finally responded this past weekend to the unfortunate comments of another presidential hopeful, Donald Trump, who called undocumented Mexicans rapists and criminals. Bush said that Trump’s comments don’t represent the Republican Party or its values.
Bush, former governor of Florida, a state where Hispanics account for 24 percent of the population, said that he was personally offended by the comments. He is married to a naturalized Mexican, Columba Bush, and their children have Mexican blood. Former Texas Governor Rick Perry, from a state where Hispanics make up 38 percent of the population, agreed with Bush.
Another candidate, Marco Rubio, a current senator from Florida, called Trump’s comments “offensive, inaccurate and divisive.”
Former Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney branded Trump’s comments as a “severe error.” Romney knows a thing or two about severe errors. In the 2012 presidential election, he proposed self-deportation as a solution for the 11 million undocumented immigrants and only earned 27% of the Latino vote, compared with George W. Bush’s 44% in 2004 and John McCain’s 31% in 2008.
However, a CNN/ORC poll now has Trump in second place among Republicans with 12%, second only to Bush’s 19%.
It is as if the percentages reflect the division of the Republican party between the wing that knows it needs to respect the Latino vote in order to win the White House; and the other wing that believes they only need to appease the ultraconservatives in order to advance in the primaries and caucuses in certain states. The latter seems to forget that once they win the nomination, they must appeal to other electoral sectors – independents, youth, women, and ethnic minorities like Hispanics.
For years the leadership of the Republican Party has lacked the backbone to deal immediately and vigorously with figures like Trump, who sabotage every effort that the group makes to reach out to Latino voters who have abandoned the party at a rapid pace over the last decade, precisely because the insults and disrespect are rising in tone.
Republican Congressman Steve King said in 2013, referring to the DREAMers, that “for every one that’s a valedictorian, there’s another 100 out there who weigh 130 pounds and they’ve got calves the size of cantaloupes because they’re hauling 75 pounds of marijuana across the desert.”
In 2012, King compared immigrants to dogs while arguing that the United States should select which immigrants can enter the country. It’s like choosing a hunting dog from a litter, he said. And previously he called for the electrification of a fence “with the kind of current that would not kill somebody.” “We do this with livestock all the time,” he said.
A Mexican that has been deported five times was accused of murdering a young American woman in San Francisco last week, and Trump used the tragic incident as proof of what he said, that undocumented Mexicans are criminals.
The problem with that premise is that Trump and his supporters believe it is correct to generalize and stereotype all immigrants, Mexicans and Latin Americans, as threatening.
Evil has no nationality. There are bad apples in every ethnicity, race, and social and immigration status, just as there are good people, workers who fight every day for their families. They are performing jobs that contribute to the progress of this great nation, from the most humble to the most advanced.
Ask any undocumented or documented immigrant and they will be the first to say that those who are criminals should be removed from this country. What happened is evidence of a broken immigration system. It is one of the consequences of not passing immigration reform that would allow us to separate the chaff from the wheat.
Or do Republicans think that, because of Trump’s comments, we should label them all as prejudiced? I’m sure they wouldn’t like that.
But they should not forget that in politics, perception is reality.
Maribel Hastings is a Senior Advisor at America’s Voice.