Saturday, February 11, 2012

The Hispanic vote

The article below argues that the Hispanic vote is up for grabs given disappointment with Obama. It ignores the fact that the GOP would alienate its base if it were more sympathetic to illegals.

So I think this election is really about turnout. Either a lot of Hispanics will stay home or a lot of conservatives will stay home. The stage is set for it to be Hispanics.

Although President Obama garnered overwhelming Latino support in the 2008 election, many Latino leaders have expressed concern with the president’s lack of zeal in fulfilling campaign promises (a recurring, disappointing theme across the entire demographic spectrum of Obama voters, including myself). One of the president’s pledges during the ’08 campaign that resonated with many Hispanic voters: a promise for comprehensive immigration reform that would include providing millions of undocumented Latinos, currently living in the United States, a path towards American citizenship or some type of legal status.

Truth be told, under President Obama’s administration deportations have risen by 30 percent than under his predecessor. As leaders of the traditionally liberal, Latino voting blocs in the West and Northeast began to ingest those numbers, the administration felt compelled last summer to reveal that ICE was now going to prioritize the deportation of convicted felons rather than focusing on the now infamous abuelitas that Newt Gingrich sought to protect from deportation during the Florida debates.

Common sense and a hint of political savvy would indicate that the door is ajar — enough for Republicans to barge in and press Obama on this issue, thereby courting moderate Latino voters and theoretically attracting more Latino votes, particularly in key states like Nevada, Colorado and New Mexico. Unfortunately, the immigration issue in the Republican primary debates had been reduced to echoing layers of jingoistic buzz words and simplistic rhetoric. This not only falls well short of holistically addressing the complex quandary of illegal immigration but also risks alienating Latino Republicans who are discouraged by their party’s shortsightedness.

Former state legislator Juan Carlos Zapata, a Republican, insightfully pointed out to me this week that “one of the major issues being ignored in the immigration debate is the significant economic contribution that the ‘illegal’ population already makes and could potentially increase if they were afforded a path to legal status. . . . On the flip side of that,” the Colombian American added, “no candidate is addressing the feasibility of rounding up over 11 million people and deporting them. What are those figures in terms of costs?”

Granted, in Florida, immigration status does not resonate that prominently as a campaign issue as it does in other parts of the country. That’s mostly because Puerto Ricans, who are concentrated in central Florida, are U.S. citizens at birth. Cuban immigrants, concentrated in South Florida, are granted political exile status and receive preferential treatment over all other nationalities in terms of their accessibility to American citizenship.

The Cuban Adjustment Act is an outdated, unfair Cold War-era relic. I’m hard pressed to believe that the bulk of Cubans arriving on our shores today are political refugees when one day and a year after attaining permanent U.S. residency many are hopping flights to visit Cuba, the very country that was so politically intolerable that they left it — but that is a different issue ripe for another day.

Raquel Regalado, a Cuban-American Republican and member of the Miami Dade School Board, says she’s concerned about the stance her party is taking on immigration because it does not tackle the real-life consequences of immigrants living in the shadows. “By not comprehensively addressing the issue of immigration, the problem seeps into most facets of our governing infrastructure — healthcare, education, you name it.”

Regalado and Zapata are among a cadre of Hispanic Republicans pressing their party leaders to cool it on the hurtful immigrant bashing and work on attracting Latino voters.


Immigration critics say governer is welcoming ‘illegal aliens’ to Florida

A Florida immigration restrictionist group put up a billboard this week saying Gov. Rick Scott is welcoming “illegal aliens” to Florida. Located near the Georgia border, the billboard reads: “Welcome Illegal Aliens: We offer jobs, free health care, education and welfare. Thank Governor Scott.”

Floridians for Immigration Enforcement, the group responsible for the billboard, writes: “This is a wakeup call for Florida Governor Rick Scott who promised Floridians he would work to get mandatory E-Verify enacted to protect our legal workers. He has remained silent and has failed to use the power of the Governor’s office to help get E-Verify enacted.” E-Verify is the electronic federal database used to verify if a job applicant is authorized to work in the U.S.

Floridians for Immigration Enforcement adds that it is time for Scott to fulfill his campaign promise and make E-Verify mandatory for all Florida employers, asking, “Will Florida Republican Leadership AGAIN Block E-Verify?” The group writes that state Rep. Gayle Harrell‘s bill filed early January that would require every private employer to use E-Verify “has yet to have a hearing in either the House or Senate.”

One of Scott’s first acts as governor was to sign an executive order requiring that all state agencies — and all companies that enter contracts with state agencies — use E-Verify to check the employment elligibility of their workers. Last May, Scott quietly issued another executive order which supersedes the one signed in January 2011. Scott said in August 2011 that the federal government needs to do its job: Secure the border, implement a national immigration policy and create a work visa program that actually works.

That same month, when he spoke at a conservative gathering, Scott delivered the same message adding that, “I tried to get an [immigration] bill passed last year. It got through the Senate. It didn’t make it through the House. It will happen this session.”

Immigrant advocate groups, opposed to measures like E-Verify, said this week that the employment authorization program is included in highly controversial immigration “attrition through enforcement” state laws in Alabama, Arizona and Georgia.

Opponents of E-Verify during Florida’s 2011 legislative session included business groups like the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, Associated Industries of Florida, the Florida Chamber of Commerce and the Florida Fruit and Vegetable Association.


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