Latino USA

Posts Tagged ‘Republicans’

Congressional House Divided

Just after the last presidential election, prominent Republicans sent a clear message to support an immigration overhaul. But after months of debate, divisions among Republicans in Congress over a path to citizenship in the bill threaten the new pro-Latino rhetoric the party has worked so hard to promote. Matt Laslo reports from Washington.

Image courtesy of Flickr/Joe Goldberg.


head_shot_lasloMatt Laslo is a freelance reporter who has been covering Congress, the White House and the Supreme Court for more than five years. He has filed stories for more than 40 local NPR stations. His work has also appeared in The Atlantic, The Chattanooga Times Free Press, National Public Radio, The Omaha World-Herald, Pacifica Radio, Politics Magazine, and Washington Magazine.

Tackling the GOP’s Latino Problem

The Republican Party continues to struggle to recover the level of Latino support it enjoyed during the George W. Bush era. The $64 million question: can the Republicans do it, and how? María Hinojosa speaks with Pablo Pantoja, former Republican National Committee Hispanic outreach director in Florida, and George Antuna, co-founder of the Hispanic Republicans of Texas.

Photo courtesy of…

 

pabloPablo Pantoja has worked and volunteered in several roles with the Republican Party at the local, state, and national levels. Recently, he repudiated the culture of intolerance in the Republican Party through a public letter to his friends and took a stand by switching to the Democratic Party. Pantoja is a veteran of the Army National Guard and holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Spanish and a Master’s Degree in Political Science, Applied American Politics and Policy from Florida State University.

Screen Shot 2013-06-21 at 1.21.40 PMGeorge Antuna Jr. is the co-founder of the Hispanic Republicans of Texas. He is a former candidate for the Texas House of Representatives and worked for U.S. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison as Regional Director for San Antonio, South Central Texas and El Paso. Before entering public service, he was the Director of Protocol for then Texas Secretary of State, Henry Cuellar, and Policy Analyst of Workforce Development, Economic Development and International Relations for then Lt. Governor Rick Perry. Mr. Antuna was elected to the council of the City of Schertz in May, 2011. He currently works in the financial services industry.

 

Despite Display of Diversity, GOP Actions and Words Send Hostile Message to Immigrants

The Republican Party is trying hard to appear diverse, inclusive, and welcoming. While they can’t do much about the optics of a convention packed with white people, they can control who gets the podium.

Have a look at the list of convention speakers. You have a large number of Latinos, including Ted Cruz, Texas U.S. Senate nominee, Susana Martinez, New Mexico Governor, and of course, GOP darling Marco Rubio, U.S. Senator from Florida. You even have some Asians, with appearances by Nikki Haley, Governor of South Carolina, and Ishwar Singh, president of the Sikh Society of Central Florida.

GOP leaders recognize that our country is fast becoming a majority minority nation and they need to appeal to people of color, especially growing immigrant communities which will decide the outcome, if not of this year’s elections, certainly of the 2016 race and beyond.

Republicans need to understand that most of us can see through this manufactured and condescending visual. The rabid anti-immigrant rhetoric of the GOP presidential primaries is still steaming fresh in our minds. Rubio himself admitted to George Stephanopoulos that he agreed with Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa when he said “you can’t just trot out a brown face or a Spanish surname and expect people are going to vote for your party or your candidate.”

“Policies matter and, look, the Republican Party does have a challenge,” Rubio said.

The platform they proudly present at the convention is not exactly endearing to us either. While Rep. Marsha Blackburn, co-chair of the Platform Committee, boasts that the platform “represents the inclusiveness of our party and reaffirms the idea that we are the ‘Big Tent Party,’” many of us see it as the exact opposite, as proof of their propensity to exclude.

The GOP platform pushes for reduction in federal spending, particularly social safety net programs. It advocates for a tax code that shamelessly favors the wealthy. It continues the Republican assault on labor unions. It declares an end to “Obamacare.” It spells out an immigration policy that focuses mainly on law enforcement and opposes any form of reprieve for undocumented immigrants.

The thing is, communities of color which are mostly middle and lower income Americans, rely on safety net programs they pay for with their taxes. These are families and individuals who will not benefit from tax breaks for wealthy Americans who do not need preferential treatment. Labor unions protect the interests of all working Americans. The president’s health care reform law has already benefited millions who would otherwise not have adequate care or any healthcare at all. Are Republicans really so tone deaf to what truly matters to immigrants, their children, and communities?

Shenanigans during the convention are also indicative of the climate that greets people of color when they step into Republican spaces. A couple of attendees threw nuts at an African American camerawoman, explaining “This is how we feed animals.” As Zoraida Fonalledas, chair of the Committee on Permanent Organization, started to speak in her accented English, some in thecrowd started chanting “U.S.A.! U.S.A.!” The attendees who assaulted the camerawomen were promptly ejected and RNC chairman Reince Priebus did call for order and respect for Fonalledas, but none of the bigwigs has come forward to challenge fringe elements in their midst.

On the contrary, Mitt Romney pandered to birthers and nativists in the GOP ranks when he declared “no one’s ever asked to see my birth certificate” while campaigning in Michigan last week.

Eric Liu, former speechwriter and deputy domestic policy adviser for President Clinton and a fellow with the Center for Social Cohesion at Arizona State University, writes:

Romney’s implicit pledge of allegiance to the birther movement is as revealing of his character as anything else in his campaign of half-deliberate opacity. He appears to lack a core capacity for empathy. He literally cannot see himself as someone not white, as someone accented or a newcomer … Romney may yet win in November. But he and this whole odious line of attack are on the losing side of history. The tide of demographics is irresistible, and soon enough it’ll sweep up his birth certificate and mine into a new notion of who is truly from this country.

Jeb Bush, who has been admonishing his party to ease up on its hardline immigration stance, told The Hill that inclusive language and policies are important symbols which reflect sensitivity for the concerns of communities of color. He also warned that if immigrant communities do not feel welcome, “we’re going to lose elections.” “That’s not opinion — that’s math,” he said.

Bush’s calculations are spot on. No matter how hard the Republican Party tries, most of us do not feel welcome. Both their words and actions belie their protestations of diversity and inclusivity.

You can follow Erwin de Leon on Twitter or read his blog.

Fi2W is supported by the New York Community Trust and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation with additional support from the Ralph E. Odgen Foundation and the Sirus Fund. Image courtesy of flickr.

Erwin de Leon is a Policy Researcher and writer based in Washington, DC. He writes on immigration, LGBT, and nonprofit issues. You can follow him on Twitter at @ErwindeLeon.

Podcast: Can the GOP Convince Enough Hispanic Voters to Help Elect Mitt Romney?


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Republicans say they are aiming for 38 percent of the Latino vote in the presidential election. Mitt Romney is currently polling below 30 percent among Latinos. What can the GOP do to improve these numbers?

We called up Valeria Fernandez, a freelance journalist and filmmaker based in Phoenix, and Pilar Marrerosenior political writer for La Opinión to give us some analysis from the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Florida.

Going into the convention there was a lot of buzz about the strong anti-immigration language in the party platform, but according to Marrero, when she arrived in Tampa at the start of this week, the platform was nowhere to be found. What was leaked was so badly received that the full text was not released.

Marrero says the Romney campaign is trying to step back from the message of “self deportation” that it offered in the primaries. Romney is now talking about a proposal to add a temporary workers’ program, visas for families of green card holders and adjustments for undocumented immigrants who have served in the military. Marrero adds that Romney wants to position himself as having a more humane approach to immigration, but these measures aren’t really being advertised to non-Latino voters.

Fernandez has been seeking out Florida Latino Republicans. A major difference she has found between them and Latino Republicans in her home state of Arizona is that the Floridians largely support the DREAM Act and other attempts at reform while their counterparts in Arizona oppose anything they see as “amnesty” for undocumented immigrants and are largely behind anti-immigrant legislation like SB1070. But she says, the Floridians are distrustful of President Obama after he failed to fulfill his promise of comprehensive immigration reform, and believe Romney will be more moderate on immigration after he’s elected.

Polls show that the economy is the top concern for Latino voters. But Marrero says 68 percent of Latinos blame former President George Bush for the poor economy, and have not heard Romney’s economic message. One reason might be that Romney’s outreach to Latino voters is heavily concentrated in the battleground state of Florida with comparatively little activity elsewhere.

With Texas US Senate candidate Ted Cruz, Florida Congressman Marco Rubio and Puerto Rico Governor Luis Fortuño speaking during the convention, many have observed that Republicans are pushing hard to represent the Latino side of their party. But Marrero thinks those three will have a hard time connecting with the majority of American Latinos who are of Mexican origin. The key, she says, is the tone the GOP uses in its outreach to Latinos. Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, she says, argued this before the convention: “We can’t tell people to join our cause if they don’t feel welcome,” she quoted Bush as saying.

Fi2W is supported by the New York Community Trust and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation with additional support from the Ralph E. Odgen Foundation and the Sirus Fund. Image courtesy of flickr

Ted Cruz Brings His Conservative Message to the Republican National Convention

The Republicans kicked off their national convention in Tampa on Tuesday with a program starring a line-up of GOP all-stars. They also carted out many of their Latino headliners. Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval and First Lady of Puerto Rico Luce Fortuño had their chance to speak before what looked on TV to be a blindingly white audience. But the real Latino standout was Texas U.S. Senate candidate Ted Cruz.

The Texas delegates, dressed in bar-b-que outfits- Texas flag shirts and cowboy hats – cheered him on. The audience repeatedly jumped to their feet to applaud Cruz during his 12-minute speech. As I watched it I kept thinking, “Why do they keep applauding? He’s not saying anything and what he does say makes no sense!”

I’ve written before about the many things that Cruz, a fellow Cuban-Texan from a conservative family, and I have in common. Our backgrounds aside, I can honestly say that Cruz and I agree on almost nothing. Cruz is a tea party favorite for his extreme rhetoric that includes abolishing the IRS and the education, commerce, and energy departments. But he didn’t come right out and say all of that crazy stuff in his speech. That would have alienated the less extreme members of the GOP. Now is a time to watch what you say.

Speakers at the convention kept repeating the same information:  “Obama put us 16 trillion dollars in debt, 23 million people unemployed,” and keywords like “We Built It”, “freedom, liberty, free market, grass roots,” and “We the People”. Cruz hit all of the talking points and quoted famous lines like, “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down that wall!” and Martin Luther King Jr’s line that men should be judged, “not by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” It’s the equivalent of a band that only plays their greatest hits, only Cruz is playing other people’s songs. Of course the delegates cheered: Reagan’s Berlin Wall quote is the Freebird of Republican rhetoric.

Cruz even spoke in Spanish. He told the story of his father’s immigration to the United States after being imprisoned under the Batista regime in Cuba. He said of his father, “No tenia nada, pero tenia Corazon (he had nothing, but he had heart)” in the thickest gringo accent you ever heard to limited applause. This was a calculated move to prove his Latino cred, and what good is a token Latino if he isn’t “Latino enough”?

Through the haze of tired rhetoric and familiar quotes, he said something that caught my attention, “Unfortunately, President Obama’s campaign is trying to divide America. To separate us into groups. Telling seniors that Medicare will be taken away. Telling Hispanics that we’re not welcome here.”

¿Que?

Let’s put aside for a second that the Republican party platform calls for overhauling Medicare so that seniors would have to buy private insurance with some government assistance. But Obama is telling Hispanics that we aren’t welcome?

Wasn’t it vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan who described arresting and deporting undocumented workers with the fishing term “catch and release”? Cruz supports Ryan even though he is in favor of throwing out so-called “anchor babies”? Cruz repeatedly talked about how much he loves the Constitution, but I guess he forgot that the 14th Amendment provides equal protection under the law to all citizens. Since “anchor babies” are born here, they too are citizens, Ted.

Or perhaps it slipped his mind that he opposes any form of amnesty, including the DREAM Act or the president’s immigration reprieve. Cruz also favors the building of a border wall as well as the terrifying phrase “boots on the ground” along the U.S.-Mexico border.

Mitt Romney is hoping that during the fall campaign Latinos will forget all of the anti-immigration rhetoric he used during the primaries and concentrate on how badly the economy has hurt Latinos. Cruz touched on this when he said that there were 2.3 million Latino small business owners being hurt because Obama had “declared war on small business”. He didn’t go into how exactly the president was doing this. Latinos count the economy as their top concern, which isn’t to say that immigration isn’t a close second for most of them.

Latinos won’t soon forget that Cruz, a son of immigrants that grew up in a state with a huge Latino population, has sided with a party whose platform opposes their very presence in this country. How can you trust a man who turns his back on his own people? Cruz repeatedly talks about how his father achieved the American dream by coming to the U.S. and going to school in order to make something of himself. Why then does he oppose today’s Latino youth from doing the same?

Fi2W is supported by the New York Community Trust and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation with additional support from the Ralph E. Odgen Foundation and the Sirus Fund. Image courtesy of flickr.  

Jack Tomas is a writer, filmmaker, and editor working in New York. He’s originally from Houston, TX where he earned a BA in Theater and Communication from The University of St. Thomas. Later, he received an MA in Media Studies at The New School. Jack has worked several years as a professional filmmaker and his films have appeared in several film festivals including the Cannes Film Festival, The LA Comedy Shorts Festival, and The New York Independent Film Festival. He has also worked as a professional blogger since 2009 writing for Guanabee.com, Tuvez.com, Egotastic.com, and Directorslive.com. He lives in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn with his wife Marybec and two cats.

Understanding Ted Cruz – A Fellow Cuban-Texan Explains the Rising GOP Star

Last month, former Texas Solicitor General Ted Cruz beat out Lt. Governor David Dewhurst in a runoff election for the Republican nomination to run for Kay Bailey Hutchinson’s Senate seat.

It was a big upset: Republican rock stars from Governor Rick Perry to Mike Huckabee endorsed Dewhurst. Cruz, however, was backed by some of the state’s more hardcore tea partiers, (I know, more hardcore than Perry?).  Much like fellow Cubano Marco Rubio, Cruz’s strong opposition to anything smelling of political moderation has led to endorsements from the likes of Sarah Palin and Glenn Beck. Though I am a liberal Democrat and opposed to everything he stands for, I can’t help feel a certain kinship to Cruz, a fellow Cuban-Texan.

Let me explain. Though some of the facts about his family history have been questioned, his “When we came from Cuba” stories are similar to my own. Like Cruz’s family, my grandparents were strong supporters of Castro during the revolution against dictator Fulgencio Batista. Cruz says his dad Rafael, “was a guerilla, throwing Molotov cocktails and blowing up buildings.” Batista later tortured him. My uncle Pedgie was a guerilla fighter under Che Guevara and was murdered in cold blood by Batista’s thugs. Unlike my family, Cruz’s father fled before the triumph of the revolution in 1959. Lucky him.

Rafael Cruz came to Austin in 1957 with only $100 sewn in his underwear. The story reminds me of my grandfather leaving Cuba in 1969 with his medical diploma cut into small pieces and sewn in his boxer shorts. Except for a brief stint in Canada where Ted was born, the Cruzes settled in Texas rather than the Cuban exile mecca of South Florida.

The Lone Star State is also where my grandparents landed. Despite their first house being five blocks away from the Ku Klux Klan’s east Texas headquarters, they felt welcome. My grandfather described how he and his Cuban friends were the only Latinos in the Houston suburb of Pasadena where they settled.

Why would hardcore Texas conservatives welcome immigrant Latinos like my family and the Cruzes?

The answer is similar ideologies. Our families were both cartoonishly anti-Communist. Their disillusionment with Castro led them to react against anything  even remotely progressive.

During the revolution, Castro promised to establish a democratic republic with free elections modeled on the American system. That sounded pretty good to the 98 percent of Cubans that supported him, including my family and probably the Cruz family too. Pretty quickly after his victory it became apparent that he was allying himself with the Soviet Union and was setting up a Communist dictatorship. For a lot of Cubans not only was this an ideological betrayal but a personal one. My grandmother fell into a deep depression when her friend General Huber Matos was imprisoned and he revealed to her that Castro was a Communist. It was like a break-up for a lot of them, and often just like in a break-up you hate the “other woman.” For many Cubans Communism was the other woman.

I suspect that in the Cruz household, as in my own house growing up, the words “Democrat” and “Communist” were synonymous. My grandmother had a picture of Ronald Reagan next to a picture of Jesus by the family Bible. True story.

Like a lot of old-school Cubans, they blamed the Democratic Party for the failures of the Bay of Pigs invasion which led to my grandfather’s imprisonment by Castro for his involvement. My grandparents also thought that Democrats wanted to have too much of a hand in their lives.

My abuelo lived through 3 dictatorships in his lifetime (Machado, Batista, and Castro) only to come to the U.S. in time for Watergate. He simply didn’t trust governments and wanted to have as little interaction with them as possible. He always told me that all politicians, even guys like Reagan, were all “hijo de puta mentirosos (son of a bitch liars).” In ultra-conservative Texas circles, these ideas are as ingrained in the culture as bar-b-que and cowboys.

Today I am considered a heretic in my “Cu-Tex” family. My cousins mostly still think the way we were brought up to think. I simply cannot discuss politics with most of my older relatives. They tell me they’re glad my grandparents didn’t live to see what I’ve become.

When I look at Ted Cruz, I reflect on how easily I could have been him ideologically. If I hadn’t drifted to the left in my teenage years, perhaps like Cruz, I too would want to abolish the commerce, education, energy, and TSA departments as well as the IRS. Maybe I would also say things like, “I’ll throw my body in front of a train to stop anything short of its complete and total repeal” in reference to “Obamacare.”

Maybe if I had read more Ayn Rand?

There but for the grace of God go I, my friends.

Fi2W is supported by the New York Community Trust and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation with additional support from the Ralph E. Odgen Foundation and the Sirus Fund. Image courtesy of flickr.

Jack Tomas is a writer, filmmaker, and editor working in New York. He’s originally from Houston, TX where he earned a BA in Theater and Communication from The University of St. Thomas. Later, he received an MA in Media Studies at The New School. Jack has worked several years as a professional filmmaker and his films have appeared in several film festivals including the Cannes Film Festival, The LA Comedy Shorts Festival, and The New York Independent Film Festival. He has also worked as a professional blogger since 2009 writing for Guanabee.com, Tuvez.com, Egotastic.com, and Directorslive.com. He lives in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn with his wife Marybec and two cats.

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