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Fernando Espuelas Headshot

GOP is Blowing-up Last Chance With Hispanic Voters

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Tetra Images - Henryk Sadura via Getty Images
Tetra Images - Henryk Sadura via Getty Images

Tick, tock, time has run out on the ongoing sabotage of immigration reform.

Time for John Boehner and his GOP cohort to present a credible immigration reform bill to the nation. And that doesn't mean just any set of oily and ambiguous "principles," but a coherent, comprehensive bill that will pass the House, reconcile with the Senate's own bipartisan bill and win the president's signature.

While conservative pooh-bahs are discouraging Speaker Boehner (R-Ohio) from action, saying that immigration reform will damage the GOP, the view from outside the right-wing bubble is quite different. Boehner undoubtedly gets it, but many Tea Party Republicans on the Hill and their enablers in the media, especially Tea Partyers who are rabidly opposed to reform, continue to live trapped in a time capsule somewhere in the past when Cokes sold for a nickel, new Chevys for $800 bucks and minorities were forcibly blocked from voting.

Invisible to these time travelers is the daily damage that Republicans are suffering as American Latino voters -- the fastest growing part of the electorate and the margin of victory or defeat in several big states -- are increasingly disgusted with the GOP's immigration blockade.

The reality is now upon us: Since President Bush's immigration reform was killed by his own Republican Party in 2007, and the latest GOP presidential candidate ran on a political suicide strategy of "self-deportation," many Hispanics in this country see Republicans as the immovable object that must be dislodged from power.

The national GOP is going through a scaled-up version of the politically fatal Pete Wilson syndrome. Back in the 1990s, Republican rising star Gov. Pete Wilson of California launched a crusade attacking undocumented workers. He campaigned for a ballot proposition that would, among many other vindictive measures, keep undocumented children from attending public schools.

The proposition passed with the substantial help of Latino voter apathy. But aside from being found unconstitutional, Wilson's attack upon Latinos had a very serious unintended consequence: Inert Hispanic citizens woke up and became registered voters. Since Wilson's doomed crusade, the percentage of Latino voters has increased in every election.

All any California Democrat has to do at a voter rally is connect their GOP opponent with the magic words "Pete Wilson" and the election is effectively over. The state of Ronald Reagan is now deep blue; there are no state-wide elected Republicans. Latinos have long, long memories.

And invisible to the immigration blockaders is the effect a legalization bill without a path to citizenship will have on Latino voters. The very un-American idea that the U.S. will have a permanent underclass of laborers paying taxes and contributing to the common good, yet unable to aspire to citizenship and eventually elect their representatives, is repulsive. As Germany and other countries that have tried similar schemes, the effects include diminished economic benefits from immigration, racism, and social instability.

If Republicans want to permanently lose the Latino vote, similar to the African-American electorate, then they should definitely pass a bill blocking an earned path toward citizenship.

The only question that remains is whether Boehner will allow his party to commit electoral hara-kiri by listening to the Tea Party Republicans who think the GOP should appeal to a whiter voter base or save it by passing comprehensive immigration reform that makes America more prosperous, secure and true to American values. He might even successfully inoculate the GOP from Pete Wilson syndrome.