On November 6, 2012, President Barack Obama won re-election with 71 percent of the Hispanic vote. This vote, which constituted 10 percent of the total U.S. vote cast, showed an increase of 2 percent over the last two presidential elections. Gov. Mitt Romney received a mere 27 percent of the Hispanic vote.
Today, the Hispanic population of the United States is estimated at 15 percent of our 314 million people. By 2016, that percentage is projected to increase to about 16.5 percent. The Hispanic vote could be flexible in coming years, if the Republican Party (the Grand Old Party, the GOP) in turn becomes flexible.
What was Romney’s problem with Hispanic voters? The answers are several. The Obama campaign, joined by most news media, described GOP failures in detail to the Hispanic community — descriptions that went unchallenged by Romney.
- Failure to Have a Positive Position on Immigration. Romney failed to state a positive position on legal immigration and revitalization of U.S. immigration law.
- Failure to Explain the Pitfalls of Amnesty. Republicans and conservatives failed to explain the merits of enforcing existing U.S. immigration laws, of stronger border control, and of state legislation where the federal government fails to address illegal immigration.
- Failure to Detail the GOP Immigration Position. Republicans failed to explain their immigration positions that, rather than being bigoted, are based on the law of the land, on national security concerns, on public health concerns, and on sovereignty obligations.
- Failure to Explain the Rule of Law. The United States of America is first and foremost a nation of laws. Immigration is part of the nation’s rule of law, and U.S. citizens of Hispanic heritage who find a federal law unjust have a legal avenue to correct that law. It is by legislative action, not by disobeying existing law.
- Failure to Address Immigration Reform. Romney failed to challenge President Obama’s excuses for not seeking legal immigration reform and for having a higher deportation rate of illegal aliens than did President George Bush.
- Failure to Define “Self-Deportation”. Romney failed to explain “self-deportation” or the fact that more than 1 million illegal aliens have self-deported since 2008 — as verified by a Pew Hispanic Center report and by the Mexican government.
In the 2010 elections, Hispanic Republicans were elected U.S. senator from Florida, governor of New Mexico, and governor of Nevada. Yet, these elections were not trumpeted by the Republicans or by their candidate.
Romney failed to press Obama and the Democrats, who had full control of both chambers of the U.S. Congress — the Senate and the House of Representatives — in 2009 and 2010 yet failed to act on their promise of comprehensive immigration reform.
In 2012, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., was working on a bipartisan bill to provide illegal-alien children with legal status and privileges. President Obama, in full re-election mode, pre-empted Senator Rubio’s efforts with an Executive end-run of the legislative process.
The Secretary of Homeland Security (DHS) issued a memorandum on the morning of June 15, 2012, that granted deferred deportation to illegal-alien youths (up to 30 years of age), who met specified requirements. An hour later in the White House Rose Garden, President Obama made a grand announcement of the memorandum.
Republicans failed to oppose this executive fiat; nor did they criticize the hidden restrictions that limit applications by illegal-alien youths.
Despite polls showing that Hispanics rank jobs, the economy, education, and healthcare ahead of immigration, the news media reported that immigration-related matters swayed Hispanic votes for Obama and Democrat candidates.
Where do Republican leaders go from here? Realizing that, with a divided Congress, a comprehensive immigration reform package will not pass both House and Senate, House Republicans need to pass targeted pieces of immigration reform legislation.
They can start with an improved version of the Bracero program (1942-1964), a flawed guest-worker program terminated by President John Kennedy. An updated Bracero program could relieve the illegal-alien problem perplexing the president and Congress.
A 21st century Bracero program could provide guest workers with good housing, safe working conditions, income guarantees, and legal entry and exit papers. Such a program could protect national security concerns while providing the nation with a valued workforce, who would no longer need to pay “coyotes” (illegal alien smugglers) for high-risk entry to the United States.
Immigration advocates, farm labor unions, and agricultural interests would welcome such legislation as a new beginning and a 21st Century legislative accomplishment.
Republicans also need to take the lead in introducing visa legislation for legal immigrants with advanced degrees in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (the STEM courses). Currently U.S. public education is not preparing most students for these in-demand STEM jobs.
What is the lesson learned from the 2012 election? Republicans have some catching up to do.
James H. Walsh was associate general counsel with the U.S. Department of Justice Immigration and Naturalization Service from 1983 to 1994. Read more reports from James Walsh — Click Here Now.
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