Cornyn, immigration and 2014

by Ryan Campbell | April 29, 2013

While Senator Cornyn (R-TX) may have used some “colorful” language recently to dismiss an op-Ed written by a member of DRM, we stick by the points made, especially that immigrant communities need more leadership from Senators like Senior Texas Senator John Cornyn. Senator Cornyn is currently struggling with questions of where to stake out his territory on immigration with a rapidly changing U.S. demographic, which will become a more common dilemma throughout the Republican Party as both immigration reform and elections rapidly approach.

Texas is one of the states which best represents the changing demographic and cultural trends of the United States: many speculate that Texas could become a blue state as early as 2016. The reason for this is largely immigration. Other border states like New Mexico and Arizona have seen an influx of Latinos, which has had profound effects on politics both for and against immigration. This has ranged from Rick Perry giving in-state tuition to undocumented immigrants in Texas, to Jan Brewer blocking driver’s licenses as part of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program to help DREAMers in Arizona.

In Texas, the demographics are shifting in an unquestionably Latino direction. Can Cornyn win his primary incurring the wrath of Latino voters (which will only continue to grow between now and the general election)? Even if he can, will it be worth recording commercials like “finish the dang fence” that continue to haunt Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) and further harm his party’s national brand? Once he gets through the primaries, will he be able to get through the general election in a state that’s 38 percent Latino when organizations like Voto Latino are listening hard to the debate? Even if he is able to run this terrible gauntlet he creates for himself, he will undoubtedly be sacrificing his long-term career to weather the short-term storm.

Many Latinos that voted for Obama are shaking their heads and saying that guys like John Cornyn, along with Ted Cruz, Jan Brewer and Joe Arpaio, still don’t get it: SB 1070 and border walls are not the way to govern a state full of immigrants in a country of historical immigrants that is reliant upon the participation of immigrants for our economy, infrastructure and even for expanding the youth demographic in an aging nation. Although Cornyn still has time, he may very well find himself with the same harsh anti-Latino brand that have made Arpaio a laughing stock, barely able to hold on to his position, which had previously been safe for years.

All sorts of reports, such as Mayor Bloomberg’s report, have been issued by reputable organizations on the benefits to the economy of reforming immigration; Silicon Valley, lead by characters like Mark Zuckerberg, are reaching out to allow the employment of immigrants to fill engineering jobs they cannot fill domestically; human rights organizations decry the conditions US border policy pushes people into as a human rights violation that the United States is obligated to address; the AFL-CIO and U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the largest labor and business lobbies nationally, have come to an agreement on an immigration deal that informed the Senate version: the writing is on the wall that the environment has never been better, nor the conditions more demanding, to ramp down the costly enforcement, and embrace the young, working demographic that is roughly 5 times more likely to start their own business.

Ted Cruz (R-TX), the Canadian son of a Cuban immigrant, is one of the most vocal opponents of immigration, forming one pole of the Republican party on the issue; Marco Rubio, who has had sympathetic rhetoric on immigration and is now the heart and soul of the “Gang of 8” has formed the other. While John Cornyn hasn’t made his choice yet, he will inevitably fall into one extreme or the other whether he likes it or not, and he will not have enough time to redeem himself to voters he alienates going into 2014. For mixed immigration status families, there is no other single issue that is more immediate, or a stronger voting issue