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Should Republicans do the Democrats' bidding?

By Nicholas Sanchez
web posted August 20, 2001

For our Spanish-speaking president, George W. Bush, Mexico has occupied a great deal of his attention over his lengthy summer vacation. He has leveled the serious charge of "discrimination" at Members of Congress who want to increase the safety requirements for Mexican trucks wishing to pass through the United States. And he has also managed to jolt both Democrats and Republicans alike with a plan that would allow nearly 2 million illegal aliens from Mexico to become permanent residents of the U.S.

The leaders of the Democrat Party -- who generally like to think of themselves as the sole protectors of oppressed and down-trodden groups, like immigrants -- were not expecting such a measure to be proposed by this White House. In fact, House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt, quickly scrambled to come up with a plan of his own.

The Republicans, on the other hand, who often look ill-at-ease in courting minority constituencies, were also taken aback by this plan. Traditionally, the GOP has been the political party that has been willing to embrace the concept that in coming to this country, people should generally have to follow all the rules and requirements to: a) enter our borders; and b) become naturalized citizens. Only then would they be deserving of the full rights of citizenship. Of course, this "harsh" position has put the Republican Party at odds with left-wing Hispanic groups, like La Raza.

The GOP's principled stand on this issue has come at the cost of its being able to obtain majority support from Hispanic voters, who often have family members in nearby Mexico trying to get into the U.S. To counteract this, several Republican consultants have been whispering into the ears of party leaders that they should blindly push social issues to Hispanic voters, with the hope that this will bring them into their fold.

Their specious thinking follows the line that because most Hispanics are Catholic, they then must be tied to their bishop's thinking on questions such as abortion. Of course, poll after poll shows that most Catholics -- and Hispanics are not exempt from this rule -- do not particularly pay much attention to what their bishops have to say on such matters nowadays. Although from my perspective as a Greek Catholic this situation is lamentable, it is nonetheless a fact.

No trabajar�, senor Dubya
No trabajará, senor Dubya

My own guess is that Mr. Bush and his advisors also realize this. So instead, they have opted for another strategy to reach out to Hispanics. Unfortunately, I believe that their new strategy is just as misguided as their previous efforts

The Administration's plan is to allow nearly two million Mexicans to stay in the country under a guest-worker program. Under these rules, illegal aliens who qualify could stay and work in the country while, presumably, applying to become naturalized citizens. Once they have been granted legal status, they would then have the right to petition the government for more of their relatives to come to the U.S.

For immigration enthusiasts, this plan sounds great. For those who believe in the rule of law, there is something fundamentally wrong with the federal government providing such an easy-out to people who broke the law in order to get into this country.

That argument aside, politically, this is a no-win for Bush in that by doing this he will basically be rushing in future Democratic voters. Should any rational person believe that by making this dramatic gesture Bush and the Republican Party would win chits with Hispanics and Hispanic groups? The answer of course is a resounding "no!" Republicans are not going to be there to greet these Hispanics at the local level. They will be met by Democrat politicians and bureaucrats who will push them into their political tent faster than you can say "ariba!"

It is admirable that our president is interested in reaching out to a constituency that his political party has historically ignored, or, in some places, been downright hostile to -- but that doesn't mean he should lose his political sense in extending his hand to them. If President Bush really wants to gain the attention of Hispanic voters, then he should spend less time worrying about the Mexican economy and more time worrying about our own economic development. ESR

Nicholas Sanchez is the Free Congress Foundation's Director of Development.

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