A more poignant statement could not have been made when Senator Rubio spoke before the annual National Association of Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO) and said, “this issue unresolved is more powerful”. Rubio’s speech was the closest to reality among the major speakers at NALEO, because neither side has had much of an interest in finding a solution to the immigration problem. That is going to change soon.
By contrast, Mitt Romney and President Obama were the smoke and mirrors event of the week. Mr. Smoke, or Governor Romney, tried to wax poetic about the importance of immigrants and how the Republicans seek a solution that unites us, not divides us. And if this wasn’t condescending enough, as if he were giving these folks a civics lesson, he must think Latinos were smoking the good stuff when he stood in front of a crowd of white Republicans in Arizona saying their draconian law, SB1070, was a model for America.
Captain Mirrors, or President Obama, tried to pretend he wasn’t the truest reflection of exactly what the most anti-immigrant members of the GOP have been calling for all along, a policy of mass deportation no matter the heart-strings Latino organizations pull.
The irony is that most of those present at the NALEO conference voted for President Obama back in 2008. Back then, candidate Obama stood before these very people and promised to solve the immigration problem. And no wonder pulling at his heart-strings hasn’t worked, Obama hasn’t seen the folks at NALEO since the last election, four years ago.
You would think a Democrat would be able to integrate Latinos into their administration, but Cecelia Muñoz, the Director of Obama’s White House Domestic Policy Council and former Vice President of yet another Latino organization, National Council de la Raza, (NCLR) has been his greatest cheerleader and defender. The only cabinet member, Ken Salazar, is too busy doing who knows what.
One notable exception is the Secretary of Labor, Hilda Solis, who has worked to bring attention to Latino issues in the workplace.
But without a solid presence of Latinos at the top of the administration, the concerns of Latinos will get lost in the noise.
This is where Republicans may have a long-term advantage. They seem to be doing better recruiting Latinos into office than the Democrats. Whether it is high-profile officials like Rubio and Governor Susana Martinez of New Mexico, or low profile officials sprinkled throughout Texas and elsewhere, the GOP is moving Latinos into districts where they will be getting the ear of white folks. Guess what? You need white folks to play along, too and someone needs to explain this issue to them.
By contrast, Latino Democrats are largely corralled into heavily Latino districts. Who knows if that will matter sooner or later, but someone smart in the GOP is going to notice this if they haven’t already. And Obama’s undercutting of Rubio’s Dream Act Lite is a good indicator someone is at least listening on the Democrat side.
Four years ago, a candidate who had a long presence at Latino events stood before the NALEO crowd and gave his promise to solve our immigration problem. He had a long history with the NALEO crowd, and the NCLR crowd. That candidate was sure to get a Congress that was strongly Democrat and that candidate had already received upwards of 70 percent of the Latino vote in his statewide elections.
That candidate was John McCain. He drifted right, as is expected in the primaries, but it’s inconceivable given his history and his relationship with Latino organizations that he would have adopted a policy such as Obama’s “Operation Wetback II”.
That’s all history now. Let’s hope NALEO and our “leaders” can put enough pressure on President Obama this time around to stop the deportations and stop tearing Latino families apart. But judging by the fawning crowd, it’s not clear Latinos are going to make Obama work for their vote. Again.