I get asked all the time by Republicans how they can talk about the immigration issue without turning themselves inside out, or turning Latinos against them.
Not all Republicans care enough to even ask the question, of course. Some don’t see a problem, and they’re happy to keep pandering to nativism and racism to win the votes of white Americans who cringe at changing demographics and tremble at the thought that the country is becoming more Latino.
But for those Republicans who realize the suicide mission their party is on by angering and alienating a population that adds an estimated 500,000 new voters to the rolls every year, there is a thirst for answers. They want to know how they can remain faithful to their principles and preserve U.S. sovereignty without sending Latinos fleeing to their Democratic opponents.
Let’s start with the basics. For those who want to repair the breach between the GOP and America’s largest minority, it would really help if Republicans stayed away from incendiary rhetoric that likens Latino immigrants — especially those from Mexico — to the cast of Animal Farm.
- In the most recent example, Arizona state Sen. Russell Pearce — the author of Arizona’s racial profiling law — said during a panel discussion in Washington that he didn’t understand how hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants could come to the United States each year without being detected and tracked by authorities. “We can track a cow with mad — mad cow disease, where it came from, um, but somehow we can’t find these folks that are within our country?”
- Tennessee state Rep. Curry Todd was asked during a committee hearing in Nashville if a state-funded health care program checked the citizenship of pregnant women before offering them services. Upset at the fact that health care providers do not try to determine citizenship once a baby is born in the United States, Curry complained that illegal immigrants “can go out there like rats and multiply.”
- A Republican running for Congress from Iowa said that the government must do a better job of tracking illegal immigrants once they’re deported to prevent reentry. Dr. Pat Bertroche said during a GOP candidates’ forum that the U.S. government should implant microchips into immigrants as if they were household pets. “I think we should catch ’em, we should document ’em, make sure we know where they are and where they are going,” Bertroche said. “I actually support micro-chipping them. I can microchip my dog so I can find it. Why can’t I microchip an illegal?”
- Rep. Ted Poe, R-TX, recently said that the Department of Homeland Security should be able to capture more illegal immigrants because, after all, the government has managed to apprehend much smaller intruders. “Now it seems to me that if we are so advanced with technology and manpower and competence that we can capture illegal grasshoppers from Brazil, in the holds of ships,” Poe said. “If we’re able to do that as a country, how come we can’t capture the thousands of people that cross the border everyday on the southern border of the United States? You know they’re a little bigger than grasshoppers and they should be able to be captured easier.”
- Rep. Steve King, R-IA, said during a Tea Party rally in Colorado that he wanted to build a concrete border fence that no one or nothing could get across, “not even a cockroach.” A few years ago, King said on the House floor that he thought we should install an electrified fence on the border “with the kind of current that would not kill somebody” but would give them a jolt. After all, he said, “we do this with livestock all the time.”
To recap, some Republicans see illegal immigrants as comparable to cows, rats, dogs, grasshoppers, cockroaches, and livestock. Certainly not human, and not deserving of the respect or dignity reserved for humans.
This is offensive, but it isn’t original. The Germans, Chinese, Irish, Italians, Jews, and other immigrants were all seen as inferior to current inhabitants. It didn’t matter whether they came legally, illegally, or with a letter of recommendation from the queen of England. All that mattered was that they were different from what was already here, and the differences scared enough people to make for a frosty welcome.
It’s cute that some Republicans have such fondness for the animal kingdom. With demographics shifting as they are, and a string of defeats headed their way for decades to come, Republicans might eventually go the way of another creature that couldn’t adapt to changing surroundings: the dinosaur.