(In this document obtained by the AP from the National Archives Southwest Region center in Fort Worth, Texas, the paternal grandfather of New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez is seen on a “certificate of naturalization” dated April 6, 1942. The document shows that Adolfo R. Martinez became a U.S. citizen in 1942 after lawfully entering the country more than two decades earlier, resolving questions over whether the Republican governor’s ancestor was an illegal immigrant. (AP Photo/National Archives Southwest Region center))

Opinion: NM Governor scrutinized like everybody else

I am very proud of my grandfather, who for much of his life was an undocumented immigrant.  He came to this country as a child, during the Mexican Revolution, with hopes of a better life.  Later he sacrificed greatly so all of his children could attend college.  I like to be upfront about my grandpa’s life, as it has influenced my own views on immigration. I empathize with the struggles of undocumented workers because, to me, they are people just like my grandpa.

On Friday, New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez found her grandpa back in the headlines.  The Associated Press (AP) reported that her late grandfather was a legal immigrant, contrary to a 2011 report that he was undocumented.

When it was first revealed that her grandfather had entered the country illegally, Martinez was called hypocritical for her campaigning to deny drivers’ licenses to illegal immigrants.  Hispanic advocacy groups like the League of United Latin American Citizens accused her of turning her back on her own people.

University of Houston Professor Guadalupe San Miguel Jr. believes that Martinez is being subjected to unfair scrutiny because she is Hispanic. “It is definitely an anti-Mexican immigrant strain of thought that is being applied to her,” he told the AP.  Actually, Martinez is being treated the same as any successful politician.

When a person runs for national office, the media attention is intense and inevitable. The Kennedys and Clintons have spawned a cottage industry of books, films, and television dramas.  President Obama has been exhaustively investigated, from his birth certificate to his former pastor to his tax returns.  Newt Gingrich seems to garner as much attention for his wives as he does for his ideas.  So the press is not out to get Governor Martinez.  In reality, they go after everyone.

The families of politicians are subjected to the same media spotlight.  Sarah Palin received tremendous criticism when daughter Bristol announced she was an unwed mother.  A TV pundit derided Mitt Romney’s wife Ann for being a stay-at-home mom.  Although such attacks are unfortunate, they are a reality of political life.  Martinez would have been wise to fully investigate her own background, rather than leaving it to reporters.  She is neither the first nor the last politician to be blindsided by the “scoop” of a journalist.

Nor is Martinez the only one to have her family’s immigration history made public.  In 2008, Obama was found to have an aunt living in the country illegally, while an undocumented uncle surfaced last year when he was arrested on DUI charges.  Mitt Romney’s border-crossing family – his ancestors settled in Mexico to avoid prosecution for the Mormon practice of polygamy – were the subject of a special report by NBC News.  Invasive?  Maybe.  Surprising?  No.

True, Martinez received bad press when it was reported that her grandfather was undocumented – just as she did for denying the existence of climate change and opposing the Dream Act.  Still, according to Public Policy Polling, 54 percent of New Mexico voters rate her favorably, making her one of the nation’s most popular governors. Her name has been mentioned as a possible choice for the GOP vice presidential nod.

Whether Martinez family background is relevant to her policies is debatable. But saying she is being singled out as a Latina misses the bigger picture. She is being singled out because she is a rising star who is taken seriously by the national press. That’s as it should be. Like it or not, every aspect of her life is fair game for scrutiny and will continue to be as long as she remains in the public eye.

Opinion: NM Governor scrutinized like everybody else raulreyescrop politics NBC Latino News

Raul A. Reyes is an attorney and member of the USA Today Board of Contributors


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