Fifty thousand Latinos turn 18 every month in the U.S. and become eligible to vote. Alas, it’s an arithmetic that doesn’t add up for House Republicans
Tomas Mega, U.S. correspondent, Nevada
Republican U. S. Congressman Mo Brooks of Alabama has a pointed message for establishment minded Republicans who believe their party needs to be more inclusive. On immigration reform, including a path to citizenship for most the country’s 11 to 12 million unauthorized immigrants, Brooks’ message is this: “Anyone who has come to our country, and their first step on American soil is to thumb their nose at American laws, we should not award them with our highest honour, which is citizenship.” In June, House Republicans backed up Brooks’ statement by targeting the justifiably named DREAMers voting to de-fund President Obama’s executive order to defer their deportation.
Members of DREAM (Development, Relief & Education for Alien Minors) are at the heart of immigration reform. They are illegal immigrants under the age of 31 who entered the United States before age 16; have lived continuously in the country for at least five years; have not been convicted of a felony, a “significant” misdemeanor, or three other misdemeanors; are currently in school, graduated from high school, earned a high school equivalency certification through General Education Development (GED) exams, or served in the military. Obama offered them a two-year, renewable reprieve from deportation.
For DREAMers, the Republican message is unambiguous: Keep dreaming.
U. S. Republican Representative Steve King of Iowa took it further when he said: “You cannot separate the kids from those parents who came across the border with a pack of contraband on their back.”
In late June, the U.S. Senate passed a bi-partisan, sweeping immigration reform bill that included a 13 year path to citizenship for unauthorized immigrants. The Republican controlled House of Representatives has little interest in the bill, and House Speaker John Boehner has said he will not schedule a vote on the Senate bill. The House favors legislation to secure the border and enforce immigration laws first. Any discussion on immigrant legal status and a path to citizenship will come later.
The post-Obama election sense of urgency felt by many Republicans to be more inclusive of Latino voters is evaporating. Why? Because all politics is local. Even with 50,000 Latinos turning 18 every month in the U.S., and becoming eligible to vote, the arithmetic doesn’t add up for House Republicans. Of the 234 Republicans in the House of Representatives (a majority), only 16 represent districts composed of one-third or more Latino constituents. The remaining 218 Republican seats are overwhelmingly conservative, white constituencies, who have elected conservative white representatives. There is little incentive and even less to lose for Republicans to support any immigration reform that their constituents object to. Indeed, supporting immigration reform in these districts could invite primary challenges from hard core conservative Republicans, and avoiding bruising primary challenges within their own party is of principal concern to incumbents. They will win or lose based on the politics and beliefs of their white, older voters, who make up the majority of their districts. And many Republicans in both the House and Senate believe that Latinos won’t vote for them anyway, even if they do back immigration reform.
There is a political renaissance among Republicans in states they dominate. They know they don’t need a Republican in the White House to get their way. As well as the U.S. House of Representatives, they already control the majority of state Governorships and legislatures.
Don’t like Obamacare? Thirteen states have already rejected setting up Obamacare health exchanges and the expansion of Medicaid. You’re not in favor of a women’s right to choose? Then join Texas, who just surpassed Arkansas and other states by passing the most restrictive laws on a women’s right to choose in America. Don’t like unions representing your local civil servants? Do as Wisconsin, and curtail their ability for collective bargaining. If you don’t like anything remotely connected with Obama, do as North Carolina and cut everything; education, Medicaid, jobless benefits and push for new restrictive voting laws too. Even states controlled by Democrats tremble over divisive issues championed by Liberals, like gun control. In July, Illinois, where Obama was a U.S. Senator, became the last state in the nation to pass a law allowing residents the right to carry concealed weapons in public.
Finally, if you’re against immigration reform, don’t worry. Just keep electing Republicans to the U.S. House of Representatives. When you control at least one of America’s legislative houses, political gridlock and a no-compromise agenda is assured. If consensus is not reached on immigration reform prior to the Congressional summer recess, many doubt its’ future. When Congress returns in September the fight over Obamacare, with its January 2014 implementation, will confiscate the attention of Congress.
Things aren’t so bad for Republicans. That fact should terrify Democrats. Perplexing for them is how and if they can ever regain control of the majority of state legislatures. Clearly, women and Latinos should play a major role. But as we saw in 2012, large urban areas were responsible for Obama’s election, while the rest of the country voted for Romney. That polarizing trend is not likely to change anytime soon, which may mean Republicans will continue to get their way in states that they control.
Regardless of your politics, when your country begins to wobble under its own politically uncompromising and demographically polarized weight, the infinite possibilities for the worlds’ foremost democracy are cast into doubt. Latinos may not be wanted or needed today, but who will it be tomorrow?
Photo: NCDREAM Team
They are right