As the Florida Republican presidential primary approaches this Tuesday, the candidates are doing all they can to appeal to the Hispanic vote, with some even going as far as softening their prior views. As Huffington Post reporter Elise Foley recently noted, even Mitt Romney, who while campaigning in South Carolina promised to veto the DREAM Act if it came before his desk during his term as president, a few days later, softened his stance and stated he would pass a version of the DREAM Act if applied to those in the military. Shortly thereafter, as I recently addressed in my own HuffPost essay, U.S. Senator and GOP golden boy Marco Rubio called for an ending of hateful rhetoric against immigrants when addressing the issue of immigration. Despite what appears to be promising, I questioned whether anything would change, both in terms of the tenor of immigration discourse and in terms of the passage of anything resembling the DREAM Act.
Within moments of posing my doubts, I watch your latest episode and I witness a clear answer to my question: more anti-immigrant/anti-Latino baseless and racist bashing. In yet another unchecked attack, this time the baseless and race-baiting assault was levied by Republican Representative from California, Dana Rohrabacher. It is amazing a congressman was able to assert the following statement in response to your assertion that undocumented immigration rates are at a "net zero":
"Baloney, baloney, baloney... anybody who believes that, please vote for them. If you go to your local schools and find 25% being illegal aliens and bringing down the education levels of everybody else, having our healthcare, having our healthcare being drained of resources when
we can't take care of our own, eh [sic] go ahead and vote for liberals. Go ahead and vote for liberals. Go ahead and vote for liberals if you want to give education, healthcare and ahhh [sic] money to people who come here illegally."
Sadly, Congressman Rohrabacher's baseless imagery of our schools being overthrown by the undocumented was either an amazing display of ignorance or was undoubtedly made to frighten the American people. The reality is that there are no statistics or studies to support the congressman's comment. Yet, the display of an utter lack of knowledge or demagoguery went unchallenged. Why?
A few simple questions Mr. Maher: Why is it that in this era, is it appropriate to make false statements, often geared to promote hate and scorn, merely because one is referring to undocumented individuals? Could it be that this occurs because the undocumented have no one to speak up for them when they are attacked? It certainly could not hurt Congressman Rohrabacher's political future. The undocumented are part of no politician's constituency. They are defenseless. Yet, they are welcomed by industries such as those in the congressman's state -- agriculture, construction, and the service sectors, and it is those industries that create the demand for the undocumented. We all too often have opportunistic politicians taking cheap shots at the silent members of our society. We all benefit from the homes the undocumented build, the care they give to our children, and the food they may even prepare for us. Yet, they are like shooting ducks in a barrel for any irresponsible politico seeking to appear tough on law and order.
Of course my comments are not limited to the offhanded remarks by an older politician appearing on television, these types of attacks have occurred regularly on FOX News or even CNN, particularly when Lou Dobbs Tonight aired. Indeed, Bill O'Reilly, Pat Buchanan, Rush Limbaugh, Rich Minaya, and Lou Dobbs (along with a host of pseudo-intellectuals) have effectively made their careers with such attacks. Even presidential hopeful Herman Cain took from this page and recently asserted that electrified fences and moats filled with alligators should be used to curb immigration. Imagine anything similar levied against any other group? We all can recall the reaction to Don Imus' awful comments concerning the Rutgers' women's basketball team, or the reaction to Michael Richards' racist rant, or even the unseemly jokes of Gilbert Gottfried concerning Japanese earthquake victims. Yet no mass outrage when attacks are made against the undocumented, despite the fact most Latinos and Latinas realize such attacks have their affects on all members of that community.
Mr. Maher, I happen to be a fan of your show, though I have been disappointed with the utter lack of Latino voices on any episode I have ever seen. Can it be that the country's largest ethnic/racial minority group has no public intellectuals, or even persons of some ability that are interested in national events? In any event Mr. Maher, I hope in the future you will speak up on this and other important issues I know you have championed in the past. Please do not let race-baiting go unchecked. And it wouldn't hurt to have some Latinos and Latinas on your show to be able to be able to follow that old Caribbean saying... to be "Presente," or present, when it is time for us to speak out.