OPINION

Opinion: Pence has demonstrated how little he understands the immigration issue

NEW YORK, NY - JULY 16: (L to R) Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump greets his newly selected vice presidential running mate Mike Pence, governor of Indiana, as he takes the stage during an event at the Hilton Midtown Hotel, July 16, 2016 in New York City. On Friday, Trump announced on Twitter that he chose Pence to be his running mate. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

NEW YORK, NY - JULY 16: (L to R) Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump greets his newly selected vice presidential running mate Mike Pence, governor of Indiana, as he takes the stage during an event at the Hilton Midtown Hotel, July 16, 2016 in New York City. On Friday, Trump announced on Twitter that he chose Pence to be his running mate. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)  (2016 Getty Images)

On Saturday, Donald Trump brought the Republican veepstakes to an end. “I am here to introduce the man who will be my partner in this campaign,” he declared at an event in New York City. With that, Indiana Governor Mike Pence officially became Trump’s pick for Vice President. Trump praised Pence as “a man of honor, character, and honesty.”

While Pence said that Trump’s words about Curiel were “inappropriate,” he never condemned them or stated that Trump should apologize. That Pence should show disregard for a fellow citizen and fellow Hoosier is both revealing and troubling.

- Raul A. Reyes

But as might be expected of someone who agreed to be Trump’s running mate, Pence is no friend to the Latino community. He holds extreme views on civil rights. He has favored harsh, impractical immigration policies. On healthcare, abortion, and gun control, he is out of sync with Hispanic voters. Like Trump, he would be a nightmare for Latinos.

Until now, Pence was probably best known as the governor who signed a 2015 law that would have allowed business owners to use their religious beliefs as an excuse to discriminate against LGBT Americans. This effort proved to be a public relations and economic disaster for Indiana, provoking a huge backlash from corporations and the business community. Perhaps because we know what it is like to face discrimination, most Latinos are opposed to such legislation. Nearly three-quarters of Latinos support laws that protect LGBT people from discrimination, according to a Public Religion Research Institute poll, while 66 percent of Hispanics oppose allowing businesses to refuse service to LGBT people based on religious beliefs.  

On immigration, Pence is a hardliner. He signed his state onto the lawsuit opposing President Obama’s executive action on immigration, which could have helped four million undocumented people live and work without fear of deportation. He defended SB 1070, Arizona’s controversial “papers, please” law, which was later mostly struck down by the Supreme Court. In 2004, when he was a congressman, he actually wanted to arrest and deport undocumented people who were in the hospital.

Pence’s most notable contribution to the immigration policy debate demonstrated how little he understands the issue. In 2006, he favored what he called “no amnesty immigration reform.” It was a plan that would have required all the undocumented immigrants in the U.S. to return to their home countries, and then apply for a guest worker program so that they could re-enter legally. Consider the economic and social disruption that would have been caused if 12 million people, a group about equal to the population of Ohio, up and left the country. What about their citizen children? Who would have paid for these folks to return to Mexico, China, or Central America? Not surprisingly, this impractical idea went nowhere. 

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Pence holds a host of other positions at odds with the Hispanic community. Unlike most Latinos, Pence is against raising the minimum wage. He wants to repeal the Affordable Care Act, which has helped millions of Hispanics access health care. While an overwhelming majority of Latinos favor gun control, Pence is staunchly against it. And while most Latino voters believe a woman should be able to make her own decision on abortion, Pence is strongly against women’s reproductive rights.  

Pence describes himself as “A Christian, a conservative, and a Republican, in that order.” However, as governor he tried to block Syrian refugees from coming to Indiana, and he complained to the Obama administration about 245 Central American refugee children who were placed with caring Indiana families. That does not seem very Christian.  

True, in 2010 Pence received an award from the Congressional Hispanic Leadership Institute. Yet no one could figure out why. The D.C. newspaper Roll Call referred to Pence as a “Mystery Winner,” and Pence himself couldn’t say why he deserved the honor. Much more telling of Pence is his reaction to Trump’s bigoted criticism of Judge Gonzalo Curiel earlier this year. While Pence said that Trump’s words about Curiel were “inappropriate,” he never condemned them or stated that Trump should apologize. That Pence should show disregard for a fellow citizen and fellow Hoosier is both revealing and troubling. It is also telling that Pence has an approval rate among Hoosiers of around 40 percent – and these are the voters who know him best. 

At Saturday’s campaign announcement, Pence said that he considered the “ancient question” of “Who am I, oh Lord?” Now we know who he is. He is a narrow-minded politician who is willing to attach himself to the most anti-Latino, anti-immigrant presidential candidate in modern American history.

Raul A. Reyes is an attorney and columnist in New York City.

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