Friday, February 22, 2013

Ted Cruz and Hispanic Voters | Casey's Last Word

Some East Coast Republicans hope newly elected U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz will help them with Hispanics.

They are delusional.

True, Cruz has already proven himself to be a skilled politician.

He tapped into anti-Establishment fervor in the Republican primary and upset Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst.

He won the general election, as did every other Republican on the state-wide ballot.

But he received little or no boost from his Hispanic last name.

Polls indicated that Mitt Romney earned less than 30 percent of the Hispanic vote.

That set off the alarms that have many Republican leaders now calling for comprehensive immigration reform.

Cruz received a slightly smaller percentage of the total vote than Romney.

That means that if, as some polls indicate, he did do a modest 5 or 6 points better than Romney among Hispanic voters, he fared worse than Romney among non-Hispanic voters.

Just because he has an Hispanic name doesn’t mean Cruz connects with Texas Hispanics.

The fact is that his Hispanic heritage is wholly different from that of the vast majority of Texan Hispanics.

Some Tejanos were here before Sam Houston.

Many more fled Mexico a century ago when every politically active Mexican was at one time or another on the wrong side of Mexico’s 10-year Revolution.

Millions more have come up from Mexico or Central America in search of work ever since the Depression.

By contrast, Cruz is the son of an immigrant who left Batista’s Cuba to attend the University of Texas just before Fidel Castro’s Communist revolution took hold.

That history and heritage is a world away from that of Texas Hispanics.

It may explain why Cruz is tougher on immigration policy even than many conservative Republicans.

Not only does he oppose any practical path to legal status for undocumented immigrants, but he also opposes the Dream Act that would give a break to immigrants who were brought here as children and know no other home.

For Cruz, the former Texas solicitor general, it’s a matter of respecting the law.

“My view is that we should enforce the laws with respect to those who are here illegally now,” he told PBS last month. That means they go back to their home countries and “get in line”

... a line that is many years long.

But here’s a key point showing the separation between Cruz and Texas Hispanics:

If those who have walked up from Mexico or Central America in the last half century had been subject to the same law and regulations as Cuban immigrants, they would all be legal.

Until 1995, the United States treated nearly all Cubans as political refugees.

Very few were denied legal status.

Since 1995, we have enforced what is called a “wet feet, dry feet” policy.

Cubans intercepted before they land are sent back.

If they make it to the beach they get to stay.

After a year they can apply for permanent residency and, eventually, for citizenship.

For the same 50 years since the United States opened its doors for Cuban refugees, it has enforced a wink-and-nod policy toward immigrants from the south.

We have limited legal immigration while fueling entire industries with the labor of immigrants without legal status.

These immigrants have picked our produce, plucked our chickens and built our houses.

They have helped make American businessmen wealthy, and many of those businessmen have shared a portion of their wealth with our politicians.

These millions of workers and their families have become part of the fabric of America, especially of our Hispanic community.

Cruz and others are right that we should get serious about enforcing our immigration laws, and we should get serious about making those laws enforceable.

But it is unseemly for a politician whose father was lucky enough to get a Castro boost toward citizenship to be so ungenerous to those who answered the siren call of a better life through hard work.

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