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Senate Immigration Subcommittee Continues Momentum for Comprehensive Immigration Reform

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Republicans’ Choice of Anti-Immigration Witness J.D. Hayworth a Setback for Party Seeking to Broaden its Appeal


Under the chairmanship of Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY), the Senate Committee on the Judiciary, Subcommittee on Immigration, Refugees, and Border Security is conducting a hearing today entitled “Securing the Borders and America’s Points of Entry, What Remains to Be Done.” Following on the heels of an earlier subcommittee hearing this month, today’s hearing shows further evidence of the momentum behind sensible immigration reform and a growing acknowledgment that the American people want Washington to address and fix problems like the broken immigration system. However, judging by the inclusion of former U.S. Representative J.D. Hayworth (R-AZ) as a witness at the request of Ranking Member Senator John Cornyn (R-TX), some Members of the Republican Party still don’t get it when it comes to crafting a sensible immigration policy that will move this country forward.

“J.D. Hayworth is a poster child for anti-immigrant extremism,” said Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America’s Voice. “Apparently, he is the poster today’s Republican Party wants on their wall. Though some Republican leaders are talking a good game about the need to improve outreach to Latino voters, the continued embrace of mass-deportation types like Hayworth will erase every positive step the GOP takes and keep its brand image toxic among Latino voters and all Americans seeking practical solutions to the big issues of our time.”

In Congress, Rep. Hayworth’s extreme views on immigration were such that he was the only Member of Congress to object to the draconian Sensenbrenner bill in 2005 — a wide-ranging crackdown infamous for its intent to make felons out of both unauthorized immigrants and religious leaders who assist them – for not being harsh enough. Hayworth, now an outspoken talk-show host, has long been an anti-immigrant agitator and favorite of extremist groups such as the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), which has been labeled a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. Hayworth’s 2006 book, Whatever It Takes: Illegal Immigration, Border Security, and the War on Terror, proposed a three-year ban on legal immigration from Mexico. Hayworth’s 2006 loss to Rep. Harry Mitchell (D-AZ) was an early indictment of the Republican wedge strategy on immigration and a testament to the appeal of practical, pro-reform candidates over mass-deportation crusaders – a trend that continued in 2008.

The dangers for the Republicans in maintaining the “Hayworth approach” were made clear in a series of new polls released this week. Gallup found that self-identified Republicans had dropped to a near-historic low of 21% and that the GOP’s share of nearly every major demographic subgroup had shrunk since 2001. Meanwhile, new polling of Hispanic voters in 13 states conducted by Bendixen & Associates found that, by a 71 percent to 11 percent margin, respondents believed that the Democratic Party best represented the opinion of the Hispanic community on immigration issues vs. the Republican Party. Additionally, only 23 percent of respondents in the Bendixen poll thought that Republicans “will do the right thing” on immigration issues, while a whopping 60 percent thought Republicans “will not do the right thing” (17 percent don’t know).

“The political and policy imperatives of a sensible approach to immigration are clear, but many in the GOP seem more interested in listening to the kind of noise that emanates from Hayworth’s talk show than in siding with the majority of Americans who want practical solutions or in reopening diplomatic relations with the Latino community in the U.S.,” said Sharry.

America’s Voice — Harnessing the power of American voices and American values to win common sense immigration reform.