The GOP’s Growing Hispanic Rift

May 12th, 2010 at 12:16 am | 137 Comments |

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I am a Mexican American and a Republican.

I remember distinctly when I first picked sides: election night, 1988. I was four.  My family had just arrived in the United States. We lived in a tiny apartment in central Tucson, Arizona.

I don’t remember much about the election. But I remember my mother, in Spanish, enunciating the candidates’ names clearly.  Bush.  Dukakis.  Doo – ka – kis. The Spanish equivalent of  “doo-doo” is caca. My electoral choice was clear, Bush it was.

Fast forward twenty years, and I found myself in the midst of a heated presidential campaign, running a small grassroots office in Northwest Tucson for another Bush.

I recruited hundreds and hundreds of volunteers out of that office.  Many sweet little old ladies who were worried about national security, who didn’t want to see another attack on American soil, or who simply believed in what they considered “good old fashioned family values.” Hour after hour, they worked tiny cell phone handsets, calling complete strangers and extolling the values of one Bush policy or another.

During the many breaks, the volunteers would sit around chatting, and the conversation would often turn to immigration.  They spoke frankly around me, their notional boss. Perhaps they had not heard my last name: My family is pale, and my fair, freckly skin looks more Irish than Mexican.

Some of the things I heard coming from these volunteers, regarding “the Mexicans,” shook me: about how they should be kept out, about how the border fence could not be built high enough, made it seem as if we were the real threat to American society, as if we were the real terrorists, hiding in caves in the Sonoran desert, waiting for the right moment to strike.

I was completely torn.  I relied on these volunteers, some were friends, some were mentors, and I needed them to complete my task, to play a small part in getting Bush reelected.  But it broke my heart to see a party I identified with, people I identified with, so irretrievably misguided about immigration and in a deeper sense, about the meaning of America.

Six years later, my state has enacted a controversial anti-illegal-alien measure, SB 1070. The law reflects genuine frustration on the part of Arizonans with federal immigration policy.  Yet it also strikes at the core of my vision of the party and of the American dream.

The core values of the Republican party could profoundly appeal to Latinos. The party firmly grounds itself in the strength of family, the importance of hard work and personal responsibility, and the virtues of limited government, yet, it has pushed away millions who have sacrificed all, putting their families on their backs, to take advantage of the economic opportunity in the United States, to work incredibly hard and do the jobs that others will not do, just to secure the American dream for themselves and their families.

By failing to embrace the immigrant, those Republicans are making themselves largely irrelevant in a new era. The magnitude of the fall will only become evident once the results from the 2010 Census are released, but it will surely be staggering.

When we arrived to the United States, my family had very little money.  But the American dream worked for us.  The hard work of my parents, along with God’s providence, plus some luck here and there, fulfilled our American dreams, and ensured that we wanted not.  I went to Princeton University for my undergraduate education, followed by Stanford Law School.  My brother attended Washington University in St. Louis both for undergrad and medical school, his medical school financed with a full ride scholarship.  My sister recently graduated from Stanford undergrad, and my other sister is in the midst of her own Princeton education. Six Mexicans thrust into Tucson, Arizona, having little money and knowing little English, somehow made it.

It pains me to see and hear so many Republicans express anti-immigrant sentiments, and it strikes me as politically fruitless to see so many Republicans support measures such as SB 1070.  The Rush Limbaughs and Chris Simcoxs of the world embarrass the party, and it pains me even more to think that the party of Lincoln, Goldwater, and Reagan, is dragged down in anti-immigrant rancor.

The GOP is not yet obsolete, nor should it be. Immigrants will embrace Republican ideals and in turn strengthen both the party and the country with a strong new base of diverse, thriving American dreamers.

Recent Posts by Robert Gonzalez



137 Comments so far ↓

  • SpartacusIsNotDead

    Brendan wrote: “so where do statements like “..there’s no point in those who support immigration in denying the adverse impacts on various communities of large numbers of poor, non-English speaking people…” leave us?”

    They should lead us to a point where we try to mitigate the financial burden that’s borne by the local communities. I strongly favor immigration. The benefits far outweigh the costs and we need lots more of it. And, except for weeding out criminals, I really don’t think it matters much if the immigration is legal or illegal, Asian, Latino, African, European, etc. But, I’m not blind to the financial burdens placed on local schools, hospitals and other infrastructure that come with large numbers of poor, non-English speaking people. No reasonable person will deny the extra costs that are necessary to accomodate these populations. These costs are borne almost entirely by the local communities, yet the benefits of immigration are dispersed throughout the entire economy. The costs should also be spread throughout the entire economy.

  • JimBob

    brendan writes:”Now, when i go to the next (for me) logical step and say, ‘oh, but none of those groups was brown’ i will be vilified for even suggesting that someone’s political views might be influenced–probably unconsciously–by race.
    but, you know what? i can’t figure it out any other way.”

    Well it is very simple brenden. In all the past great immigration waves we didn’t have a huge welfare state. During the 19th century up to 40 percent of immigrants returned home if they couldn’t cut it here. Now a woman nine months pregnant can cross the border have her baby here and begin to receive government assistance. All we’re doing is importing poverty from Mexico. The taxpayers have had enough!!! This isn’t rocket science. And all liberals can do is scream racism. It truly is pathetic.

  • brendan

    jimbob wrote: Well it is very simple brenden. In all the past great immigration waves we didn’t have a huge welfare state. During the 19th century up to 40 percent of immigrants returned home if they couldn’t cut it here. Now a woman nine months pregnant can cross the border have her baby here and begin to receive government assistance.

    two problems with this comment: one is that studies of current immigration also show a huge fraction return home for economic or family reasons. and second, it is pretty hard to get welfare in most states if you have no papers. not impossible, but a very big challenge. other states, such as NY have tried to ameliorate this barrier (for the sake of the child, mostly), but have in fact been pressured fairly successfully by the Feds to report the recipients, refuse certain kinds of care, and so on.
    it is hardly the open door of your comment–especially in the states, such as Arizona, which have been most bothered by immigration in recent years.

  • Churl

    otto asks,

    “Instead of this rather tired line why don’t you answer my question after I had the courtesy to reply at length to yours”

    Which question, the one that would require me to read what passes for the minds of the hacks who operate the Republican Party? I haven’t the foggiest.

    Or the question “are you kidding?” – No, I’m not kidding.

  • ottovbvs

    Churl // May 13, 2010 at 7:39 am

    “Which question, the one that would require me to read what passes for the minds of the hacks who operate the Republican Party? I haven’t the foggiest.”

    ……….you’re not usually as reticent about demonstrating your deductive powers……..I’ll assume you don’t want to provide an answer because it’s not the one you want to hear

  • ottovbvs

    brendan // May 13, 2010 at 7:11 am

    ……jimbob hasnt the faintest idea of what he’s talking about……there are a ton of studies that show immigration in today’s societies provides the same economic stimulus that it always did…….nativists like him have no idea of the nature of the problem and certainly no practical ideas for solving and because this is the predominant mindset of Republicans the problem will continue to linger…..hey Democrats shouldn’t complain…..it’s a heck of a recruiting tool

  • Matthew Yglesias » Endgame

    [...] Having tons of racists in your movement tends to scare off minority [...]

  • steve duncan

    Excuse please if addressed in another comment. This lad’s timeline has me confused. The story starts in 1988 and he’s aged 4. He says fast forward 20 years and he’s in the midst of another Bush election campaign as a leader of an office full of volunteers. In 2008 he’s working on a Bush election campaign? Maybe he misspoke and meant fast forward 16 years to 2004? But then he’s aged 20 and in charge of an office full of volunteers in Tuscon, trying to get Bush reelected? There weren’t more seasoned hands available to handle steering the efforts of a multitude of election volunteers in a presidential campaign? Seems a lot to hand to a 20 year old. He’s not even old enough to order a beer with the bedraggled volunteers after a long day of haggling for votes.

  • Slide

    steve duncan: see the below information which confirms the author having worked as the Field Director of the Arizona Republican Party working on the Bush campaign:

    http://www.hks.harvard.edu/inequality/Summer/Summer05/Galbraith05bios.htm

    Robert Gonzalez
    Princeton University
    Robert Gonzalez is a rising senior at Princeton University, majoring in
    Politics, with a certificate in Political Economy. At age four, Robert and
    his family moved to Tucson, Arizona, after living in Nogales, Sonora, for many years. Even today, Robert continues to speak Spanish in his home and makes frequent trips to visit family and friends in Mexico. In the summer of 2003, Robert interned at the Tucson office of Senator John McCain, working primarily on constituent services. This past summer and fall semester he took time off from school to work as the Northwest Tucson Field Director for the Arizona Republican Party (working mainly on the Bush/Cheney ’04 campaign). Besides a general interest in politics and campaigns, Robert has dedicated time to studying current immigration issues and Hispanic political trends. His Junior Independent research work focused on the effects of assimilation on conservative values and partisanship in Mexican Americans. For his Senior Thesis, Robert plans to continue his study of Mexican American and Hispanic political trends. After graduation, Robert hopes to stay involved in local and national campaign work and eventually attend law or graduate school. Outside of the classroom, Robert enjoys playing lacrosse, watching movies, running, reading, and politics. He is very excited to go to Cambridge and get to know the other Galbraith Scholars, graduate students, and faculty.

  • Churl

    ottovbvs // May 13, 2010 at 8:14 am

    “I’ll assume you don’t want to provide an answer because it’s not the one you want to hear.”

    Assume away, but why the Republican leadership behaves as it does is a mystery to me. Perhaps there are irreconcilable differences among various factions about what to do, so they do nothing.

    Why, for example, didn’t they realize that, if the Rs didn’t take the initiative to clean up some of the messes in the health care system, the Ds would eventually get busy and mess things up further?

    Same for immigration.

  • Churl

    Otto, perhaps the principle of not attributing to malice what can be explained by stupidity should apply here.

  • anniemargret

    The Republicans party is at war with itself, and still hasn’t figured out who should come out on top. That’s their problem. It is why their solutions to problems are always framed around what Obama is doing or not doing. They haven’t any pragmatic solutions to anything, except lots of 50-60s conservative ideology and are still kicking and screaming as we head further along to 21st century America.

    They don’t like illegal immigration but don’t want to discuss practical solutions to this problem, which might involve some sacrifice. They prefer whining about it. While they’re whining, they call it the ‘browning of America’ or ‘they’re taking over’ and then pretend they are not racist. There is more overt racism in the Republican party today than I’ve heard in my lifetime. They are not even shy about it, as we saw repeatedly at the Tea Parties across America.

    As far as healthcare goes, I applaud what President Obama has done. He has headed this country out of the Dark Ages and into enlightenment. As I am about to face a layoff shortly, I am not looking forward to paying over $1000/month on a salary that is well below the upper middle class. So, “churl,” speak for yourself about Obama and the Democrats ‘mess things up further….”

    Because the Republicans played politics with people’s lives, and it will not be forgotten. They had nothing to say about healthcare except more ideology accompanied by more non-constructive whining while people were drowning. They’re useless.

  • JimBob

    brendan, once an illegal woman has a baby on American soil her kid is an American citizen. Guess what, she can now get government assistance for her kid!!! You don’t know what the laws are. The taxpayers have had enough!!

  • JimBob

    anniemargret writes: “As far as healthcare goes, I applaud what President Obama has done. He has headed this country out of the Dark Ages and into enlightenment. ”

    Excuse me but the country is broke due to entitlement programs and what does Obama do, create the mother of all entitlement programs. We are looking at trillion dollar plus deficits as far as the eye can see. I’m 55 years old, A BOOMER and we will be the first generation to pass along an America that’s looking at a lower standing of living. As economic historian Robert Higgs wrote “the American people have little interest in liberty. Instead, they want the impossible: home ownership for those who cannot afford homes, credit for those who are not creditworthy, old-age pensions for those who have not saved, health care for those who make no attempt to keep themselves healthy, and college educations for those who lack the wit to finish high school. Moreover, they want it now, and they want somebody else to pay for it.”

  • JimBob

    ottovbvs writes “…jimbob hasnt the faintest idea of what he’s talking about……there are a ton of studies that show immigration in today’s societies provides the same economic stimulus that it always did…….nativists like him have no idea of the nature of the problem and certainly no practical ideas for solving and because this is the predominant mindset of Republicans the problem will continue to linger…..hey Democrats shouldn’t complain…..it’s a heck of a recruiting tool”

    I’ll tell ya what the research shows son!! The summer of 2010 is going to be the worst year for teenage employment (16-19 years old) ever. In the summer of 2009 only 45 percent of teens were in the labor force.

    Between the summers of 1994 and 2000, a period of significant economic expansion, the labor force participation of U.S.-born teens actually declined from 64 percent to 61 percent. By the summer of 2007, before the current recession, it was down to 48 percent.

    The number of U.S.-born teenagers not in the labor force increased from 4.7 million in 1994 to 8.1 million in 2007. In the summer of 2009 it stood at 8.8 million.

    The severity of the decline is similar for U.S.-born black, Hispanic, and white teens. The fall-off is also similar for teenagers from both high- and low-income households.

    Guess what, teenagers do the same kind of jobs illegals do. Work in restaurants, cleans hotels, lawn care etc etc. Again to his credit, President Clinton understood that a tight labor market helps those on the bottom climb the ladder. And no one starts out on the bottom more than a poor kid from the inner city looking for their first job. The real world.

  • Rabiner

    Jimbob:

    You overstate the occurrence of anchor babies. It just doesn’t happen as often as you’d like to admit and thus your argument is lacking.

    “I’ll tell ya what the research shows son!! The summer of 2010 is going to be the worst year for teenage employment (16-19 years old) ever. In the summer of 2009 only 45 percent of teens were in the labor force. ”

    I hear when there is an economic recession the first people to not be able to enter the workforce is teenagers. But I like how your analysis of those figures ignores this fact. Also the difference between 1994-2000 and 2001-2008 is wages have stagnated. Teenagers were able to get more than minimum wages in the 1990s for the same jobs that now pay minimum wage due to economic changes.

  • JimBob

    Rabiner, I suggest you check out births in Los Angeles. 2/3rds + are anchor babies. As for teenage wages, we had a very tight labor market in the 90s. Still remember help wanted signs at fast food joints starting out at 8 dollars an hour. College town. Will pay tuition if maintain a B average. Bush Rove refused to enforce laws and the country was flooded with poor unskilled labor The same labor teens compete for jobs with.

  • JimBob

    Matthew Yglesias » Endgame writes: Having tons of racists in your movement tends to scare off minority

    And this guy is supposed to be a great Blogger?? Like a typical liberal hack all he can do is scream racism.

  • anniemargret

    So JimBob, you would prefer that thousands of people go broke and into bankruptcy, and in some even in foreclosure because they can’t pay their medical bills? You would rather that thousands of people end up in ERs for routine medical care, overloading and burdening hospitals because doctor offices won’t touch them with a ten foot pole because they have ‘no insurance?’ And if you lose your job, can you afford to pay through the nose to get and keep insurance? Oh wait, maybe YOU can.

    Or perhaps you have no ‘pre-existing condition?” Good for you. Or maybe you still have a job and can afford to keep it for you and your family?

    You would rather watch millions of people *DIE* in the great USA because they cannot afford to keep medical insurance?

    *Now* you are worried about the deficits? How bout the trillion of dollars spent for Bush/Cheney’s ongoing disaster in Iraq? Or the burdgeoning military-industrial complex?

    “entitlements?’ Maybe to you wing types…the rest of us out here in the real world consider it sane, rational, compassionate…..and eminently wise.

  • Rabiner

    Jimbob:

    Rabiner, I suggest you check out births in Los Angeles. 2/3rds + are anchor babies. As for teenage wages, we had a very tight labor market in the 90s. Still remember help wanted signs at fast food joints starting out at 8 dollars an hour. College town. Will pay tuition if maintain a B average. Bush Rove refused to enforce laws and the country was flooded with poor unskilled labor The same labor teens compete for jobs with.”

    Since you claim an outrageous figure of 2/3rd of LA births being anchor babies why don’t you show me a government link that shows that?

    Yes we had a very tight labor market in the 1990s and now we don’t. That isn’t just because of immigration.

  • Zzzzz

    We are looking at trillion dollar plus deficits as far as the eye can see. I’m 55 years old, A BOOMER and we will be the first generation to pass along an America that’s looking at a lower standing of living

    I agree this is a huge problem. However, I have to disagree that Obama’s healthcare plan or immigrants are the biggest source of this problem. The biggest welfare queens of our age are mostly white senior citizens. In fact, if you add up all the payroll taxes (which go almost directly into the pockets of old people) that illegals pay, subtract the few social services they recieve, and fact in the lower cost of living they provide, I would say the immigrants contribute more than they receive. However, the senior citizens are the ones receiving the greatest benifit.

    You can chaulk up most of the deficit to the two wars (one of which wasn’t even necessary) and Medicare Part D, what was called the most fiscally irresponsible legislation in history as it was financed entirely by debt. That one piece of give away legislation will add trillions to the deficit over the next 10 years. 75% of the federal budget goes to just 3 programs: SS, Medicare, and the military (including all those miliatry retirees). You could cut discretionary spending to near zero, and because of the drop in revenue due to the recession and all those entitlements for old people (many of which are still healthy and able to work), we would still have a deficit.

    The only way to save this country to stop double dipping (collecting SS and retirement payments when people are actually employed) and to raise the retirement age to 75. We should kill corporate welfare, too. Ending all those millions of dollars of farm subsidies going to non-farmers and corporations. All those companies getting away with paying zero or next to zero in taxes.

  • JimBob

    No anniemargret, I wouldn’t prefer that. But at the same time this fantasy Obama Pelosi and Reid jammed through is only going to make things worse. There are only two ways to lower health insurance costs. Ration care or market forces via increased competition. Government health care always leads to rationing. Denying seniors drugs. Granny has a duty to die. And the evidence is pretty clear that government can never really control costs. In 1965-66 proponents of Medicare assured the American people that by 1990 it would only cost 9.5 billion a year. Well when 1990 did come Medicare was over a 100 billion a year.

    Solutions. Catostrophic insurance with high deductibles. Establish a system where patience and doctors negotiate price. A buyer seller relationship. Right now third party payments is one of the reasons health care inflation is so high. Vouchers for the poor. Very favorable tax treatment for Doctors that provide indigent care. And control the border.

  • JimBob

    ZZZZZ, yes the wars are a big part of the current deficit. But Medicare has a 38 trillion unfunded liability. Social Security is about to go in the red and the last thing we needed was another entitlement program. Boomers are retiring. It’s scary. And yes I know we can’t balance the budget without big cuts in the military budget. But it is the automatic pilot part of the budget that’s driving long term deficits. We need to start unwinding them. The sooner the better. We are running out of time They are unsustainable.

  • JimBob

    Rabiner, I stand corrected. The most recent data shows that 40 percent of the babies born in LA county are to illegal Mexican mothers. From Congressman Brian Bilbray

    http://www.house.gov/list/speech/ca50_bilbray/07012007.html

    But it costing Los Angeles county close to 50 million a month for the anchor babies. The city is going bankrupt and now they’re going to boycott Arizona because it doesn’t want to turn into California.

    http://www.the-signal.com/news/archive/12489/

  • Rabiner

    JimBob:

    You still can’t read statistics correctly? The article you linked to only specifies that 40% of government paid deliveries were from Illegal Immigrants and I’m sure you know that 40% of government paid deliveries are not the same as ALL DELIVERIES.

  • JimBob

    Excuse me Rabiner, but you’re right again. And to boot Brian Bilbray represents San Diego not Los Angeles. Of course in San Diego the illegal problem is not nearly as bad as Los Angeles county.

    Here are some sobering statistics from a California Tax Payer group.

    http://www.taxpayerrevolution.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=5&Itemid=10

  • Rabiner

    I wouldn’t call that a TaxPayer group. Look at the groups endorsements: all are Republicans or Immigration Control Groups. And the taxpayer revolution organization has only one issue on their website.

  • JimBob

    Can you dispute any of their stats. And who cares if they’re Republicans or immigration control groups. Are you not in favor of controlling the border?? The not so dirty secret is California by in large is bankrupt because the FEDs refused to enforce our immigration laws. Mass immigration legal or illegal only grows government. According to Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors children of illegal aliens cost the taxpayers one billion a year. Now this is just their children. Add in what their parents get via emergency rooms, etc etc and it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out what a disaster this has become. The 14th amendment which was to insure that newly freed slaves after the Civil War were citizens of the United States. Not for Mexico to run across the border have a kid that becomes a citizen and starts receiving aid from the taxpayers.

  • SpartacusIsNotDead

    JimBob wrote: “The taxpayers have had enough!!”

    Then why aren’t the taxpayers yelling to protest farm subsidies, medicare and medicaid? You keep blaming Latino illegal immigrants for use of the “welfare state” when poor whites constitute the overwhelming majority of recipients of government handouts to the poor.

  • Rabiner

    Jim:

    I was showing that you misidentified the group as a ‘California Tax Payer Group’ just because the name of the organization was Taxpayer Revolution. Next you’ll say ‘Clean Coal’ is clean. Just because the name says it, doesn’t make it so.

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    [...] Republicans feel the fury of their neighbors’ xenophobia. Writing on a conservative Web site, Robert Gonzalez, a Mexican-American attorney and a Republican, described the discomfort he felt as he overheard [...]

  • JimBob

    Spartacus, writes: Then why aren’t the taxpayers yelling to protest farm subsidies, medicare and medicaid? You keep blaming Latino illegal immigrants for use of the “welfare state” when poor whites constitute the overwhelming majority of recipients of government handouts to the poor.

    Farm subsidies medicare etc etc. If you read through this thread I think you’ll find I have touched on those subjects. But California isn’t going broke because of farm subsidies. LA isn’t on the verge of bankruptcy because of them either.

    There is disconnect in this country. On the one hand you have the elites that see no problem with hospitals going broke due to non payment by people that shouldn’t be here and then the people that have to live with the consequences. It truly is amazing.

  • Rabiner

    Jim:

    The problem is you overblow the problems that illegal immigration presents in the United States. It isn’t illegal immigration that is why hospitals go out of business, it isn’t illegal immigration that is causing 10% unemployment, it isn’t illegal immigration that led the banks to invest in credit default swaps. You seem to think that illegal immigration is the main reason for the faults for some states problems as opposed to everything else that has contributed to these issues.

    LA is in a problem due to a few things like Prop 13 meaning property taxes can’t ever be raised and they have increased employment in government by 5,000 since 2003. Not to mention public employee benefit plans that are very expensive and need to be reduced. All of those issues have nothing to do with illegal immigration btw.

    California has problems due to Prop 13 and the fact we are a huge donor state getting back only 78% of the dollars we pay in Federal taxes.

  • JimBob

    Rabiner, of course illegal immigration isn’t the worst crisis facing the nation. The collapsing welfare state is. Ask the hospital adm why they’re closing their doors. They’ll say the same thing. The banks didn’t collapse because of credit swaps. They collapsed because they lent money to people that couldn’t pay them back.

  • Rabiner

    I didn’t say the banks (investment banks in particular) collapsed due to credit default swaps but it was a contributor in allowing them think they had no serious risks in the market and led them to leverage themselves 30-1. I implied that it wasn’t illegal immigrants faults that it happened though.

    You still keep ignoring the structural issues with California’s tax code and other issues I’ve brought up however so I’ll take it you agree with that.

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