by Carlos Vargas | February 4, 2013
Dear Representative Goodlatte,
Throughout the years we have seen the immigration debate take various twists, turns and surprises: Reagan, the most revered Republican figure today, granted a broad amnesty, while Obama, who has very sympathetic immigration rhetoric and is often denounced as a “radical liberal” by the Right, has deported 1.5 million undocumented immigrants, more than any previous administration. After the drama of the filibuster of the DREAM Act in the 2010 Lame Duck session and the promises made, broken and made again on comprehensive immigration reform, we have another opportunity which is being extended from both sides of the aisle in the Senate for reasonable immigration reform. This is why today we call on you, as the Chair of the House Judiciary Committee, to stand on the right side of humane and practical immigration reform.
It is no secret that Republicans lost the last election by a sizable margin, nor is it a secret who voted against them: in addition to the African American vote that Obama easily picked up, he also received 71% of the Latino vote and 73% of the Asian vote. Why is this? Both groups are immigrant-rich: most Asians in the United States learned English as a second language, and there is no group more strongly associated with the immigration debate than Latinos. Many U.S. native Latinos feel that anything said about their undocumented friends or family targets their entire community via proxy, because “there but for the grace of God goes us” is a strong sentiment within a community where nearly everyone is related to, or at least knows, an immigrant. And an increasing population of Latino and Asian Americans in Virginia decided to side with the President on this issue.
The way in which the Republican Party cost themselves votes from immigrant-rich communities is clear: Mitt Romney, along with the majority of his party, pushed Arizona’s SB 1070, “self-deportation” and a promised to veto the DREAM Act. In addition to policy, the Latino community felt insulted by the harsh, anti-immigrant rhetoric. Meanwhile, although he was deporting more undocumented immigrants than anyone else had ever deported, Obama issued the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program to help DREAMers, the most sympathetic members of the Latino and Asian communities; is it any wonder that Latinos, despite the high numbers of deportations, voted for President Obama?
While it is certainly understandable that fighting this bill may be an accurate extension of the Republican Party platform presented during the 2012 election, this is clearly not what the American people want. Within days of the election, even Sean Hannity, known for a strong anti-immigration stand, came out saying that the Republican Party cannot continue to pursue overly restrictive immigration policies if they ever want to win the White House again, and argued for a pathway to citizenship. This sudden 180 has been echoed throughout the talking points of the GOP, however, we still wait to see concrete policy come out of this sentiment.
With an electorate that has strongly come out for immigration reform, and midterm elections approaching, all eyes will be on the immigration bill put forward, making it impossible to quietly kill in committee. The question now is will you, in your significant capacity as Chair of the House Judiciary Committee, help the bill through or, in a very publicly way which will reflect on the party, hold up the bill and place both himself and the GOP on the losing side of history alongside company like Strom Thurmond filibustering the Civil Rights Act of 1957.
Dreamers of Virginia