A cabal that includes Sens. McCain and Flake, nominally of Arizona, has proposed "sweeping bipartisan immigration reform" in the Senate. The move for Republicans is as obvious as it is cynical: After President Obama carried 71 percent of the Hispanic vote, party bosses suddenly want to make nice with brown people.
This is an easy pivot for wealthy Republican John Sidney McCain III, who in political life has rarely let anything get in the way of his ambition. The aptly named Flake will do as told. But what about all the Anglos from the Midwest and true-red Kooks who actually believed all the heads-cut-off, reconquista Mexi-peril hysteria that has been firehosed across the Arizona public square for years? Tuning in on AzCentral, I read such comments as, "Pretty bad when our own government rewards people for breaking the law"; "Great, another amnesty for criminals"; "I'm really against them braking (sic) the laws of our country -then being rewarded"; "I fought for this great country and I am dismayed that the liberals are trying to run it into the ground with political correctness"; "if they can't work hear (sic) or get welfare they won't come here"; "Round up the people using said documents and deport them."
Actually, the comments are way tamer than I expected, but the site is more difficult for trolls to take over than it once was. You get the point. "WHAT PART OF ILLEGAL DON'T YOU UNDERSTAND?!?!?!"
The Arizonans who supported SB 1070 and pushed that bandwagon to elect Jan Brewer may not be as easily persuaded as McCain and Flake. At the least, this is going to be entertaining to watch.
Nationally, the Hispanic electorate is forecast to double by 2030. Republicans see the demographic trend in Texas and worry that it could, in a decade or a generation, follow California — first becoming a swing state and then controlled in perpetuity by the Democrats. George W. Bush was one of the few major Republicans to get this early on. Minorities, especially Latinos, accounted for 88 percent of the Lone Star State's growth between 2000 and 2010. Not for nothing did the Democrats showcase San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro at their convention in Charlotte. The question is always, will they vote? Republican vote-suppression tactics failing in November, party leaders worry the GOP could indeed become a regional party of old, white people in the New Confederacy.
I see a few roadblocks for the sudden GOP conversion. The face of the new inclusive Republican Party is first-term Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, being touted as a potential presidential candidate in 2016. And the party can point to a new Hispanic senator from Texas, Ted Cruz. Yet both are Cuban-Americans (Cruz was actually born in Canada). To risk a generalization, Cubans look down their noses on everybody else in Latin America. It's much like the truism sniffed out by Don Winslow in his novel Savages: Crillo Mexicans see themselves as Europeans and everyone else (especially Mexican Indians) as a savage. Yes, a broad brush, but one with plenty of truth. Two affluent Cubans aren't going to get far with Mexican-Americans with the ethnic simpatico card.
Another problem is more substantive. Hispanics may be religious and family oriented, but that doesn't mean they are a natural fit for the madness that passes for today's "conservatism." This is particularly true considering "conservatives" and Republicans have spent years demonizing brown people — and legislating against them. They have done so with such vigor and extremism that they have alienated the Mexican-American citizens who are quietly torn about the size of the illegal immigrant cohort. It has, after all, disrupted their neighborhoods and wages far worse than has happened to most Anglos. Arizona, with SB 1070, Russell Pearce, Joe Arpaio and Jan Brewer is an international symbol of hate and racism. The law was then used as a model for other crazy red states, notably Alabama. This is the hole out of which "rebranding" will not lift the Grand Old Party.
As regular readers know, SB 1070 was never primarily about stopping illegal immigration. Arizona's economy depends on a large workforce that can be underpaid and exploited (the law would never have been allowed if the housing industry hadn't collapsed, cutting the demand for labor). Illegal alien labor made many a state Republican rich. SB 1070 was mostly about vote suppression and driving the "illegals" — and in BrewerWorld almost every brown person is illegal, certainly illegitimate in white supremacy America — deeper into the shadows. Another critical aim was to motivate the base of Anglos, many from the Midwest, while diverting their attention from the real causes of their economic and social troubles ("conservative" policies). Tragically, Arizona threw away a long good-neighbor history with Mexico (from whom we took it from in an aggressive war) and the economic benefits of cross-border alliances today.
Which brings me back to the "sweeping" proposal. Aside from the unnatural alliance behind it, with all the tensions in train, it doesn't address the heart of the matter. There are 11 million illegal immigrants in this country because American companies have an insatiable appetite for cheap illegal labor. (So do plenty of individuals. In Phoenix, longer-term illegals hire new illegals to cut their grass.) These companies have never paid a significant price for their often highly organized efforts to lure these immigrants. Nor are they willing to pay living wages for citizens or allow unionization. Nor was America willing to address the economic disruptions caused in Mexico that led to the great migration.
I don't see anything in this plan to correct this. And if the citizenship path doesn't include the self-employed, then millions will be forced to stay in the shadows. Meanwhile, America already suffers terrible inequality and a staggering loss of economic and social mobility. Poor school systems are getting poorer while tech executives sign onto the charter school racket, as if they know anything about education, particularly of disadvantaged children in chaos-filled surroundings where parents must cobble together multiple part-time jobs. Millions of citizens are unemployed. Most have seen their wages and wealth decline. When the Anglos' Irish or Italian forebears came, and were similarly despised by the native-born, economic opportunity was much greater.
The sweeping is of a broom by a part-time worker in our increasingly stratified nation. As for immigration reform, perhaps some good will come. A guest-worker program would be helpful to agriculture. But the whole thing sounds so 2006. We're very soon going to have much bigger problems coming down.What part of too little, too late don't they understand?