During the lead-up to the November elections, some fairly prominent Democrats are frantically rewriting history and trying to portray themselves as friends to the Latino community on immigration reform.
But a more careful and truthful reading of the facts should make one thing plain to America’s largest minority: with friends like these, who needs Republicans?
* Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano told a gathering of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute that the blame for the fact that there has been no action on a comprehensive immigration reform bill lies squarely with Republicans. Napolitano accused Republicans in Congress of acting in bad faith and “moving goal posts” by saying they want to secure the border and then failing to give the administration credit for doing just that.
Here, the secretary actually makes a good point that there’s a big difference between securing the border (what Republicans say they want) and sealing the border (what they seem to really want); one can be accomplished, the other can’t. Then, Napolitano urged Latinos to turn out and vote their displeasure in November.
“Your voice is your vote, man,” Napolitano told the mostly Hispanic group. “Your vote is the currency this town lives on.”
* A few days later, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said that he plans to add the DREAM Act to a defense policy bill that the Senate is scheduled to take up. The Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act was originally proposed in 2000 by Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., and Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Ind. The bill targets young people in the country illegally, offering them “conditional permanent residency” if they came before they were 16 and if they attend college or serve in the military. Once they graduate or complete their enlistment, they would get permanent legal residency with a chance to eventually apply for U.S. citizenship. Reid framed the issue as settling for half a loaf since Republicans wouldn’t give up the whole thing.
”I know we can’t do comprehensive immigration reform,” Reid said at a news conference. “But those Republicans we had in the last Congress have left us.”
* The day after those remarks, President Barack Obama appealed to a Hispanic audience to support Democratic candidates in the November elections despite the fact that he failed to keep his promise to pass an immigration overhaul — or even make it the top priority he pledged he would while campaigning for president. “You have every right to keep the heat on me and the Democrats, and I hope you do. That’s how our political process works,”
At the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute’s awards dinner Obama said, “But don’t forget who is standing with you, and who is standing against you.” Obama also promised to help win passage of the DREAM Act. In the meantime, he said, Hispanics need to remember which party has served their interest on many issues, beyond immigration.
“Don’t forget who your friends are,” Obama told the audience. “No se olviden” (Don’t forget).
We could dismiss all of this hot air as election-year “His-pandering,” but that would be much too easy. There is something more cynical, and more sinister, going on here. This isn’t merely an attempt by Democratic leaders to win Hispanic votes and sour them on Republicans by portraying the GOP as the main obstacle to immigration reform. It’s an attempt to rewrite history and hope that Hispanics don’t figure out that it’s really Democrats who have — since 2006 — helped kill, stall, and derail any compromise immigration reform bill that includes language calling for guest workers which organized labor considers a non-starter. In fact, one of the chief offenders is none other than Reid, who now has the gall to blame Republicans for supposedly doing what he actually did.
Democrats also don’t have much of an interest in Hispanic voters zeroing in on the fact that Obama — who received two-thirds of the Hispanic vote in the 2008 election — not only broke his promise to make comprehensive immigration a top priority but also limited his efforts in this arena to increasing enforcement, deploying the National Guard, beefing up the border patrol, continuing workplace raids, and ratcheting up deportations to historic levels. Obama did all this to help undermine the GOP talking point that he’s soft on illegal immigration. But in the process, he also undermined the trust that Latinos put in him to take a comprehensive approach to the problem that went beyond the inanity of the “enforcement only” stance typically taken by Republicans.
That’s the real story, and one worth telling. And until it gets out, Democrats will continue to try to hoodwink Hispanic voters into thinking that they have that community’s best interests at heart — when, in reality, the only interests that Democrats, or any political party, care about are their own.