This week we once again came back from the brink of congressional implosion and consequent government shutdown. On March 3, after weeks of threats, hyperbole, petty tantrums, and partisan bickering, the House of Representatives voted 257 to 167 to fund the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) through the end of the fiscal year 2015. DHS was mere hours away from running out of money and being forced to shut down.
It is truly stunning to witness the lengths that Congressional Republican extremists are willing to go to achieve their aims. At a time of heightened security tensions at home and across the world, the Republican-controlled House of Representatives tip-toed to the brink of letting DHS funding run out simply because they couldn't stand to see the president exercise his lawful authority on immigration enforcement policy.
Why were these extremists willing to shut down our national security infrastructure? Simply put, because they couldn't stand President Obama enacting humane, rational, cost-saving immigration policies -- policies that would, for one, put an end to the senseless separation of U.S. citizen children from their undocumented parents. This xenophobic streak in the right wing of the GOP has appeared to drive its adherents to madness.
Speaker of the House John Boehner may not personally harbor the antipathy for Latinos that is evident in the radical right of his party. But he is empowering those in the Republican Party who will stop at nothing to block any attempt to help the Latino community. Rather than stand behind sensible GOP voices who understand the Latino community and who are ready to engage with America's future, Speaker Boehner has yet again capitulated to the backward-looking bloc of the GOP that cannot seem to come to terms with a changing America.
Latino voters have been watching this farce, and they are as fed up with the GOP's extremism. Each time congressional Republicans go to absurd lengths in opposing whatever policies would benefit Hispanics, it only reinforces what Latino voters now believe in their bones: that congressional Republicans don't want Latinos in their tent, will never want Latinos in their tent, and couldn't care less about the Latino community's interests.
Latino voters are smart enough to understand the difference between policy disagreement and personal disdain. This recent debacle reveals that while it is never too late to change course, Republican leaders may actually need to take the wheel themselves rather than merely sit back and hope that the party as a whole will gradually choose to embrace the future.
On March 3, National Council of La Raza (NCLR) President and CEO Janet Murguía blasted the Republican Party for its ongoing hostility toward Latinos, writing that "when it comes to Hispanics and their families, too many in the Republican Party simply don't care." She continued, "What kind of statement does it make that pro-defense House Republicans would put our national security at risk than allow any amount of relief on immigration? ... there is a malignancy in the Republican Party, and it is growing. ... Today, the extreme has become the Republican Party mainstream."
As the 2016 elections rapidly approach and the Republican Party solidifies its plans to try to take back the White House, GOP leaders would do well to heed Murguía's recent words of warning: "[I]f they [the Republican Party] don't change course, they will lose the Latino vote for a generation."