Last night, Rep. Joe Wilson (R-SC) became a household name for his embarrassing outburst during the President’s speech on health care reform. By shouting “You lie!” when President Obama was explaining, yet again, that health care legislation would not provide free care to undocumented immigrants, Wilson also made it clear that the failed immigration wedge strategy Republicans have used during so many policy debates and so many elections is alive and well.
Wilson’s tantrum also put the GOP back in the limelight to face a fast-growing and influential group of American voters – Latinos — who have been deserting the GOP in record numbers because of its continued demonization of immigrant families. Already this year, Republicans have tried to use the illegal immigration bogeyman to derail progress on a number of issues, from SCHIP expansion to economic recovery, but have only succeeded in further marginalizing themselves with voters who want policymakers to solve tough problems, not politicize and pander.
According to Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America’s Voice:
“Congressman Joe Wilson’s outburst is not only a massive breach of decorum, but the latest example of how race-baiting and immigrant bashing have become standard fare for hard right elements of the Republican Party. What Wilson, Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX), Rep. Steve King (R-IA) and other anti-immigration crusaders don’t seem to understand is that alienating Latino voters – the fastest growing group of new voters in the nation – is threatening to relegate the GOP to minority status for decades. By substituting anti-immigration outbursts for constructive dialogue and real solutions on any number of policy issues, the Wilson wing of the Party also threatens to drive away solution-hungry Independent voters in droves. It’s time for Republican leaders to recognize that the long-term national viability of the Party—and the interests of our country—require them to stop scapegoating immigrants and come to the table with real solutions — on health care and yes, on immigration reform.”