Hispanics and Republicans

Father Tom Joyce CMF| comments | Print this pagePrint | Email this pageShare
blog

Recently the Office of Immigration Affairs of the Archdiocese of Chicago recognized Lake County (IL) Sheriff Mark C. Curran for his support of immigration reform. He had once was asked by Tea Partiers for some tough talk on dealing with “illegals,” only to get the law ‘n’ order sheriff speak of the need for comprehensive and compassionate reform. The current level of deportation are only breaking up families of good people and creating much anguish. His experience with the Secure Communities program and Catholic faith led him to believe enforcement is not the real way to fix our failed immigration policies. Needless to say, the sheriff’s remarks were unwelcome.

In this current season of Republican presidential debates, aspiring candidates are trying to convince the GOP base who can be nastiest in dealing with immigration. When one doubts the effectiveness of the fence, another proposes to electrify it and post signs warning that it can be deadly. One governor faults another for allowing Dreamers to get a tuition break at state universities and colleges, while another other retorts that his mocker hired undocumented gardeners.

When the bipartisan Kennedy-McCain comprehensive reform failed in the Senate, there was some Republican support for parts of the measure. Some immigration activists still hopes to pass some parts--whether a Dream Act to help young undocumented students or an AgFarmBill to give relief to migrant farm workers. But congressional sponsors insisted on the whole package of reforms. Then came the 2010 congressional election. The GOP rhetoric on immigration became more inflexible, and a last minute attempt to pass a Dream Act failed in the House. GOP politics on immigration has hardened, as the exchange between Governors Perry and Romney last week in Las Vegas demonstrates.

Surprisingly, there are still  Hispanic activists in the GOP, but they are distraught by the tone of the candidates and fearful that the party is blowing an opportunity to make inroads into Hispanic support for Obama. The president’s popularity and approval rating in polls is sinking as fast as in the whole electorate. Yet Hispanics are offended by statements from the GOP presidential field that may affect adversely the whole party ticket. Even Cubans in Florida, generally friendly to Republican on the economy and security, are little put off.

It always surprises me that Republicans throw away Hispanic votes. Perhaps the conservative base still smacks of Anti-Hispanic and anti-Catholic bias. There is much that conservative Republicans have that might seem attractive to some Hispanic. Much of the Hispanic electoral tends to favor the more entrepreneurial, more pro-family and pro-life rhetoric of the GOP, and still others disillusioned and resentful of Obama’s inaction on immigration reform. Democrats fear they sit out in 2012. Republicans don’t have to win the Hispanic vote, only cut into it as George W. Bush did in 2004.

These days voices of reason and compassion like Sheriff Curran’s are lonely in the GOP.