As a Latino voter in California I have been intently watching the gubernatorial campaign of Meg Whitman for the past several months. If you live in California you undoubtedly have seen the endless television campaign ads that that are a result of her infinite resources. A few months ago, her campaign consisted of daily attack ads against her Republican opposition as she positioned herself for the primary election. The hot button issue of course, was the burden on California from the sizable undocumented population in the state. Who was going to keep California safe, or as Meg puts it, who was going to be "tough as nails on illegal immigration?" Even though immigration law and reform lies outside a state governor's authority, the campaign was full of promises to secure the border, get rid of the "illegals" and punish employers. As a Latino I was offended by her deliberate vilification of migrants and her constant misrepresentation of the facts. But, by her sizable victory in the primary election, it appears Meg's message was what Republican voters wanted to hear.
As soon as Meg won the Republican primary, an almost immediate softening and outreach campaign to the Latino community began. The "tough as nails" Meg began a tour of Latino establishments and held campaign rallies in Mexican restaurants. She wanted us to quickly forget that she had bashed the hard working migrant population and was now willing to become a compassionate mother figure to the huge and powerful Latino electorate. Meg bought pricey airtime during the World Cup Soccer tournament and ran Spanish language political ads even though she is in favor of an "English only" California. She posed for cozy pictures of herself with Latino students even though, if elected, she will forbid any undocumented student from attending public California colleges and universities. She touted the diversity of California and the contribution of Latino immigrants even though she wants to make English proficiency a legal requirement for immigration.
I am frankly sick and tired of politicians looking for a vote as they stab you in the back -- welcome to politics. This time it's personal. Undocumented immigrants in the State of California are 75% Latino. They comprise 80% of the farm labor force. They own businesses and homes and have deep roots in countless communities across the state. According to Pew Hispanic Center research, comprehensive immigration reform is the number one issue for Latino families. 73% of undocumented immigrant children are U.S. citizens but Meg wants their parents to be deported and does not support a path to legalization. She would rather orphan children than look weak on immigration. Undocumented immigrants pay sales tax, income tax, property tax, gas tax and more. They are mostly poor people with low education looking for any way to support their families yet Meg erroneously campaigns on how many of "them" are crowding state prisons.
Meg spent a day at U.S. Mexico border with two border patrol agents and from that trip made the childish assessment that we have not secured the border. From one trip to the border, with two agents, to a small fragment of the 2,000 mile U.S.-Mexico border, she determines we need more fences, more border guards, more technology. She wants more of what we already have even though it costs billions, does not work and she has no authority as governor of California to legislate international boundaries.
From my Latino perspective Meg does not understand anything about the Latino population in California. She is not interested in solving complex problems of economic disparity, poverty, trade imbalances, greed and corruption that are the root causes of migration. She has no more interest in the Latino community than she did before she began her bid for governor. She sees the Latino community as a voting block she needs to win her prize. She even chose one of the most polarizing figures in the Latino community, ex-California governor Pete Wilson, as her campaign chairman and has adopted his tact of divisive politics.
Latino support for Meg Whitman is support for continued alienation and repression of the millions of voiceless Latinos who toil for our benefit. They are no less Latino because they are undocumented. They share my native language, customs and family ties. If they are excluded from the debate, so am I. If they are marginalized, so am I. California needs a modern, inclusive approach to the problems associated with immigration. Playing politics with people's lives and family well-being is reprehensible. I do not believe that any Latino who knows where they came from and understands our history of abuse and discrimination as well as how their brothers and sisters continue to suffer could ever vote for the repressive hypocrisy that Meg Whitman's campaign represents. Meg Whitman for governor of California? No gracias.
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