Friday, January 24, 2014

Republicans Play Hard on Immigration | Last Word

State Sen. Dan Patrick threw down a gauntlet when he launched a TV ad early in his race for lieutenant governor.

In it he said he was the only one of four Republican candidates to oppose in-state tuition for young people brought illegally into the United States as children.

You’d have thought he accused the other three of murdering their mothers.

They irately noted previous statements they had made against the law and called Patrick a “liar.”

And in response to an AP questionnaire on issues, all three Republican candidates for attorney general said they also oppose the law.

We’ve come a long way since 2001, when Texas was the first of now 15 states to pass such a law.

Out of 31 senators and 150 members of the House of Representatives, only five voted against it.

The law was signed enthusiastically by Gov. Rick Perry, who has defended it ever since.

He did apologize for provoking a firestorm by saying in a televised debate for Republican presidential candidates that anyone who opposed the law didn’t have a heart.

“I was probably a bit over-passionate by using that word and it was inappropriate,” Perry said in an interview.

But he defended the law, saying “it wasn’t about immigration it was about education.”

There have been repeated efforts over the years in the overwhelmingly Republican Legislature to repeal the bill, but they have gone nowhere.

The fact is, there is no massive public outcry against it.

In last year’s session, the Austin American-Statesman reported, when one senator tried to repeal the law with an amendment to a higher-education bill, “other senators – including conservative Republicans – quickly jumped up to object.”

“These people are here working, waiting tables, roofing houses, working in agriculture,” said Sen. Robert Duncan, a Lubbock Republican. The current law “turns these kids into good U.S. citizens.”

Duncan was a bit “over-passionate” in saying the law makes undocumented kids into citizens, but the practical reality is that we’re not going to deport millions of young people brought here through no choice of their own.

Polls in 2010 showed a slim majority supporting assimilating these young people.

By 2012 the polls showed a 2-1 majority favoring it.

The reason for the current anti-immigrant youth hostility among Republicans running for statewide office is clear.

Pollsters are telling them that’s what they need to say to win in post-Ted Cruz primaries.

But it’s a dangerous game they’re playing.

President Ronald Reagan carried 45 percent of the Hispanic vote in 1984.

But in the 1990s, California Republicans took stridently anti-immigrant stands in the face of a growing Hispanic population.

After strident rhetoric that culminated with passage of the anti-immigrant Proposition 187 in 1994 and subsequent anti-immigrant measures later, Republicans paid a terrible price.

Republicans lost more than two-thirds of the Hispanic vote.

What’s more, the percentage of Hispanics who registered and turned out to vote rose much faster than it did in Texas, where Governor George Bush promoted friendlier policies toward immigrants.

The result: Not only is California safely in the blue column in presidential elections, but the Republican share of the Congressional delegation has dropped from half to just over a quarter.

Potential Hispanic voters have been a sleeping giant in Texas. But if Republicans attack their children, they very well may wake up.

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