OPINION

Immigration Reform as an Opportunity for the Republican Party

NEW YORK - MAY 17:  People rally before an act of civil disobedience to protest against the lack of an immigration reform bill on May 17, 2010 in New York, New York. Nearly two dozen labor and community leaders, local clergy and City Council members were arrested while stopping traffic in front of 26 Federal Plaza. The protests follow the state of Arizona's passage of a new immigration law which requires individuals suspected of being illegal immigrants to show proof of legal residence when asked by law enforcement. The law has become increasingly divisive, with Mexico's president issuing a travel warning to Mexican citizens in Arizona. Thousands of people have been taking part in similar protests around the country.  (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

NEW YORK - MAY 17: People rally before an act of civil disobedience to protest against the lack of an immigration reform bill on May 17, 2010 in New York, New York. Nearly two dozen labor and community leaders, local clergy and City Council members were arrested while stopping traffic in front of 26 Federal Plaza. The protests follow the state of Arizona's passage of a new immigration law which requires individuals suspected of being illegal immigrants to show proof of legal residence when asked by law enforcement. The law has become increasingly divisive, with Mexico's president issuing a travel warning to Mexican citizens in Arizona. Thousands of people have been taking part in similar protests around the country. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)  (2010 Getty Images)

Some notable Republican voices have attempted to make the case against immigration reform by stating that passing the reform will only ensure that all those potential votes (11 million or so) will become Democrat votes. So in effect they argue that Republicans will cease to exist and therefore become an extinct party. 

They have not been in the trenches trying to get Hispanics and other minorities to vote Republican. I have, and I can unequivocally say that unless we take this issue off the table, we cannot begin to make our case to them: not our economic case, not our liberty case, not our small government case, not even our social issues case. We have not been able to make our case for nearly 20 years, since Proposition 187 appeared on the ballot in California, and we will not be able to in the foreseeable future.

The reason why President George W. Bush got elected and reelected with a respectable percentage of the Hispanic vote is because he genuinely cared for the Hispanic community, understood their concerns and tried mightily, if unsuccessfully, to pass immigration reform.

- Rosario Marin, Former U.S. Treasurer

An old political saying states that as California goes, so does the nation. So, let’s see what has happened in my Golden State since the infamous Proposition 187. Today, the Democrats enjoy super majorities in both houses and hold every single constitutional office. If that old political saying is correct, then we can only divine what the election outcomes will be for Republicans across the United States. 

In many parts of the nation the majority of Latinos have already loudly voiced their distaste for our Republican candidates and their stands on the immigration issue. The Democrats have outperformed us in strategy, organizing, polling, technology and so on, but the fact remains that we have lost our ability to communicate with the fastest growing segment of the population. While immigration is not their top concern and hasn’t been for the last two elections; nevertheless, it has prevented us from making our bigger case to them. 

The reason why President George W. Bush got elected and reelected with a respectable percentage of the Hispanic vote is because he genuinely cared for the Hispanic community, understood their concerns and tried mightily, if unsuccessfully, to pass immigration reform. They listened to him, because he listened to them first and they rewarded him with their vote, albeit, not the majority of their votes.

What some ultra-right Republicans seem oblivious to is the fact that unless the immigration issue is resolved, it will continue to be the stick that Democrats use to hit them over the head with. Democrats will continue to demonize them, as they have so masterfully done, by portraying Republicans as heartless, even though Latinos’ values are very much in synch with Republican values.

Across the nation 50,000 young Latinos turn 18 years old every month. Let me repeat it, every month. A few for sure are undocumented, but the majority are children and grandchildren of immigrants. Should the Republicans choose to ignore such telling demographics, they do so at their own peril, and the party could be extinct sooner than they can imagine. But there is an alternative, a great opportunity — immigration reform. 

Rosario Marin was the 41st Treasurer of the United States and is co-chair of the American Competitiveness Alliance.

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