I’m feeling a little dazed from the seemingly endless stream of GOP debates and the incumbent President’s non-statement statement on immigration policy during the SOTU. With the Florida primary just days away, both political parties are targeting the Latino vote that the state allegedly represents. Both parties are playing a spin game, ready to crown an opponent as the most anti-immigrant on one hand, while claiming that the Latino electorate in Florida doesn’t really care about immigration.
In last night’s GOP debate, on again off again front runner Newt Gingrich took a page from the Democratic National Committee, targeting Mitt Romney as the most anti-immigrant. Certainly this attack is related to Romney’s statements earlier this week touting “self-deportation” as a good solution to current problems. Romney, offended by Gingrich’s characterization, demanded an apology. As I pointed out in a piece I wrote for El Diario La Prensa last month, we are heading into dangerous territory when we try to find the “worst” among bad choices. Gingrich’s allegedly kinder, softer approach to immigration amounts to what the current Obama policy is on paper, allowing “non-threatening” immigrants with family ties and a long history in the U.S. to stay in a permanent limbo status.
A new/old Latino target is being pushed by one organization. Today, Presente.org launched a campaign targeting potential GOP Vice Presidential pick, Senator Marco Rubio. The campaign wittingly named “No Somos Rubios” (We are not Rubios/We are not Blondes), hones in on Republicans using a brown face with a brown name to earn Latino votes. This right wing strategy is being called into question not just based on Rubio’s anti-immigrant positions but also because Rubio represent such a specific facet of the Latino electorate. Rubio appeals to Cuban-American anti-Castro demographic. Rubio probably will not appeal to other Latinos, especially in the South West, who according to polls, played a critical role in Obama’s getting elected in 2008.
More local Florida politicians are also getting in the game and trying to prove that they don’t hate immigrants. Republican Congressman David Rivera from Miami introduced the ARMS Act, which is one half of the DREAM Act. The Gingrich supporter is pushing a law that would offer a path to citizenship to undocumented youth who serve in the military. There is no educational provision.
Much has been said/written about how “unique” the Florida Latino electoral population is. There are the right leaning Cubans, followed by Puerto Ricans, who according to some reports I have read, also don’t care about immigration because our colonial status comes with 2nd class U.S. citizenship (i.e. if you live on the island you cannot vote for president). Puerto Rico’s Governor Luis Fortuño is expected to officially endorse Mitt Romney today, which seems to be confusing many in media, equating the endorsement as a sign that Ricans inside the U.S., who tend to vote Democrat, may move to the GOP.
There are a few problems with this interpretation. I question the influence that Fortuño has on Puerto Rican voters, that is Puerto Ricans inside the U.S. Fortuño, with massive firings, police brutality, and out of control crime happening under his watch, may not be the best bellweather to measure potential Democrat to GOP Rican crossover.
Meanwhile Obama continues trying to convince Latino voters that he really is the lesser of many evils.
Obama’s renewed commitment to immigration reform is falling flat to many potential voters and especially to immigration advocates/activists. While Obama claims that his administration is not deporting young people who would be DREAM Act eligible, 22 year old Yanelli Hernandez Serrano sits in detention facing deportation next Tuesday.
As all voters struggle with the decision about who to vote for in primaries and ultimately in the November presidential election, I hope people make a decision outside of the lesser of many evils framework. While choosing which candidate has done the least amount of damage may make for an easier choice, it certainly does nothing to change a political system that counts on people selling out their values in favor of a vote that allegedly counts.