Wednesday, February 21, 2024

GUEST BLOGGER SERIES: Rudy Ruiz “GOP: Tough Love for Latinos”

Latinovations would like to thank Rudy Ruiz for his contribution to La Plaza.

Republicans say they love Latinos, but they sure have a funny way of showing it.

Recently, the Senate killed the controversial Vitter Amendment, which would have required that the 2010 Census questionnaire be changed to include an unprecedented question regarding citizenship status. Crafted by Republican Senator David Vitter (Louisiana), the amendment was widely seen as a GOP tactic to discourage immigrants and Latinos from participating in the Census, which has always counted “persons” rather than “citizens.”

Following the vote, immigrant activist Jorge-Mario Cabrera of the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles expressed relief, assuring me that: “The Vitter amendment was nothing more than a thinly-veiled attempt at scaring immigrants from participating in the Census.”

Los Republicanos dicen amar a los latinos, pero tienen una forma muy extraña de demostrarlo.

Recientemente el Senado derrotó la conflictiva enmienda Vitter, que habría requerido cambios al cuestionario del Censo 2010 para incluir una pregunta sin precedentes relacionada con la ciudadanía.   Diseñada por el Senador Republicano David Vitter de Louisiana, la enmienda era ampliamente percibida como una táctica del GOP (Gran Partido Viejo) para disuadir a los inmigrantes y a los latinos de participar en el censo, que tradicionalmente ha contado “personas” en vez de “ciudadanos”.

Tras el voto, el activista de inmigración Jorge Cabrera, de la Coalición para los Derechos Humanos de los Inmigrantes en Los Angeles, expresó su alivio y me aseguró que: “La enmienda Vitter no era otra cosa que un velado intento para asustar a los inmigrantes y evitar su participación en el Censo.”

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nevada) lambasted Vitter’s Amendment, declaring it unconstitutional and likening it to racist practices that once counted ethnic minorities as less than human in the Census process. In response, an indignant Senator Vitter called for Senator Reid to apologize.

But Juan Parra, Senator Reid’s Director of Communications for Hispanic Media, told me that an apology is not forthcoming, saying that Reid was rightfully concerned that Vitter’s “amendment was unconstitutional, expensive, disruptive and would have discouraged many people from participating in the census, especially Hispanics.”

It is pretty ironic that Republicans would abandon both their professed love of Latinos as well as their trademark fiscal conservatism to support an anti-immigrant, anti-Latino measure at the enormous estimated expense of hundreds of millions of dollars, according to the US Commerce Department as reported in the NY Times.

But why stop when you’re building momentum? Senate Republicans seem to be on a roll when it comes to exuding tough love for Latinos. The Vitter drama follows the failure of a Senate resolution to garner a single Republican vote in declaring October 25-31, 2009 National Hispanic Media Week. Fairly innocuous acknowledgements, these types of resolutions are common in a Senate which recently witnessed a rare flash of bipartisan support for a similar tribute to a home furnishings market in North Carolina.

Sorry, Hispanic media and the audiences you serve. I guess what you’re doing is not as important as upholstery to Republican legislators.

Strangely, a few years back, before GOP Senators started down this path by slighting Supreme Court Justice Sotomayor during her confirmation hearings, garnering bipartisan support for a straightforward accolade was not so difficult. In 2005 to be precise, former Sens. Pete Domenici (R-N.M.) and Mel Martinez (R-FL) supported a similar bill honoring Hispanic media.

Today’s atmosphere in the Senate reflects that while the importance of the Latino vote has certainly continued to grow, as evidenced in the 2008 elections, political polarization seems to be growing at a greater rate.

Could it be that the GOP simply hates the Democrats and what they stand for more than they love the Latino vote?

You don’t have to look further than Texas for an answer to that question. While the state’s population is one-third Latino, both of its Republican Senators, Kay Bailey Hutchison and John Cornyn, consistently thumb their noses at the best interests of their Latino constituents. They both voted obstinately against Justice Sotomayor’s confirmation. They both advocated adamantly for the ongoing construction of the infamous border fence, despite the vociferous protestations of residents and elected officials along the Rio Grande (a region which happens to be over 90% Latino.) And they both rigidly oppose health care reform even though 42 percent of Texas Latinos – more than any other group in the nation – are uninsured.

Perhaps it doesn’t help that there’s now only one Latino in the entire US Senate. Maybe since they don’t see any Latinos in their midst, the GOP Senators are forgetting that we exist and deserve a voice too.

On the other hand, as the 2010 mid-term election campaigns approach, I have a feeling the Republican Party will suddenly, conveniently remember to reach out to Latinos. They’ll laud Latinos as an integral thread within the fabric of America’s future. Their candidates will no doubt make clumsy attempts at speaking Spanish, recounting heartwarming anecdotes of the hardworking Latinos they’ve met on the campaign trail and – if they’re lucky –parading Latino in-laws who might have married into their family before crowds at multicultural gatherings. Notable Latino Republican pundits will wax ad nauseum about how the Republican Party’s core principles resonate with traditional Latino family values, taking the tired abortion wedge issue out for another spin through the barrio.

But as times goes on and Latino voters become more savvy, acculturated and nuanced in their thinking about politics, these Republicanos better watch out.

We have an old saying in Spanish. You may have heard it in English too: “Actions speak louder than words.”

I’m hoping Latinos respond accordingly and do two things: vote these hipócritas out of office and run for their seats. That way we can show ourselves a little love rather than pleading for it when it comes time to forge the policies of tomorrow.

Rudy Ruiz has been hailed as a cultural visionary. A published author and multicultural advocate, Ruiz is an acclaimed multicultural communications entrepreneur. He founded Red, Brown and Blue as well as Interlex, one of the nation’s leading advocacy marketing agencies ranked by Ad Age as one of the Top US Agencies across all disciplines. Prior to that, Ruiz earned his BA in Government at Harvard College and his Masters in Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School.