GOP recruiter DeeDee Blase was having trouble wooing Arizona Latinos so she started her own group, “Somos Republicans,” which disassociates itself from the local and state Republican Party in an effort to register more Latinos under the Party’s national banner. Blase points out that Arizona Latinos have become dissatisfied with local GOP leaders like Sheriff Joe Arpaio — who’s regularly accused of racial profiling — and state Sen. Russell Pearce — who called for the revival of “Operation Wetback,” a pre-civil rights federal program aimed at the mass deportation of undocumented immigrants. Somos Republicans leverages Latino anger against local anti-immigrant GOP leaders and exploits disappointment in President Obama, who has yet to deliver on his promise of comprehensive immigration reform.
Blase says she was motivated to start Somos Republicans because “Obama sold Latinos down the river” by not tackling comprehensive immigration reform during his first year as president. Its website cites “humane immigration reform focusing on legalizing labor” as a “Republican value.” However, Somos Republicans ignores the fact that Arizona GOP leaders aren’t the only Republican politicians touting hardline immigration policies. In fact, the Republican National Committee’s 2008 party platform offered nothing but enforcement-only solutions to the country’s broken immigration system and outright opposed “amnesty.” Meanwhile, right-wing Republicans did everything in their power to block comprehensive immigration reform in 2006 and 2007, and they’re likely to spend most of the upcoming immigration battle kicking and screaming. One could also say they’re also at least partly to blame for the overall delay of President Obama’s legislative agenda given all the stunts Republican right-wingers have pulled to intentionally stall health care reform.
From Rep. Joe “You Lie” Wilson (R-NC) to former anti-immigrant hate group lobbyist Rep. Brian Bilbray (R-CA) , the Republican party has repeatedly legitimized — if not elevated — its anti-immigrant fringe. Many of the GOP’s immigrant-haters sit on the House Immigration Reform Caucus (HIRC), a group of (mostly Republican) representatives founded by former Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-CO) with the mission of stopping “the explosive growth in illegal immigration,” “reversing the growth in legal immigration,” and halting “amnesties.” Other notoriously anti-immigrant members of HIRC include Steve King (R-IA), who described immigration as a “slow-motion Holocaust,” and Lamar Smith (R-TX), who equates undocumented immigrants with “terrorist weapons.” Several HIRC members have publicly supported Arapio and have held his immigration enforcement tactics up as a model for their own communities.
Meanwhile, the GOP is quickly losing the few Latino leaders it once had. Ex-chairman of the Rhode Island Republican Hispanic Assembly Ivan Marte quit the GOP after Joe Wilson’s anti-immigrant outburst and advised Republicans to “reevaluate their position” on reaching out to minority groups. Sen. Mel Martinez (R-FL), who recently resigned, expressed similar frustrations. Former Republican National Committee (RNC) Chair Jim Nicholson has urged Republicans to “review” their position on immigration and Colin Powell has pointed out that the “policies with which we greet them [immigrants] are, in important ways, self-fulfilling.”
Of course not all Republicans are racist, and not everyone who opposes immigration is a nativist. However, misrepresenting the Party’s platform and presenting the GOP as something it’s not is shamefully disingenuous. It also fails to fundamentally address the xenophobia which plagues and divides the GOP and may one day render the Republican Party obsolete if left undenounced and untethered.