"Rubio Republicans"—How Different From The Old Hispanic Republicans?

In the 111th Congress, which will formally conclude at the beginning of next year, there were only four Hispanic Republicans in the House of Representatives: Devin Nunes of California and three Florida Cubans: Mario Diaz-Balart, his brother Lincoln Diaz-Balart, and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen.

In the Senate, with the much-welcome retirement of Florida's Mel Martinez to assume his very unwelcome tenure as RNC chief, there were none.

All these Hispanics were all among the worst Republicans on immigration. Of the 198 Republicans in the House of Representatives, Ros-Lehtinen and Lincoln Diaz-Balart was tied for the second worst grade from Numbers USA, Mario Diaz-Balart was the next worse, and Nunes was two places behind. They clearly stood with the left wing Democrats on immigration. (So the Republican consultants who say they want a different tone on immigration are wrong on this too.)

In the 112th Congress, just elected, another five Hispanic Republicans will be seated in the House, plus one in the Senate. And one Hispanic Republican has been elected governor of New Mexico.

As you can expect, the usual multicultural Republican boosters are celebrating the new, diverse GOP. [6 GOP Hispanics loosen Democrats' grip on Hill, By Sean Lengell, The Washington Times, November 15, 2010] Still, this new crop is certainly more patriotic on immigration than the Diaz-Balart brothers—at least in their initial rhetoric.

John Fund of the Wall Street Journal calls them "Rubio Republicans." According to Fund:

"Republican candidates can talk tough on immigration and still do well with Hispanic voters if they can convincingly promote a message of economic opportunity".

Fund continued:

"Republicans know that hardline immigration positions seen as insensitive to Hispanics can cost them votes among a growing share of the electorate. On the other hand, candidates can talk tough on immigration and still do well with Hispanic voters if they can convincingly promote a message of economic opportunity."

Fund cites the disappointing defeats of Tom Tancredo and Sharron Angle as counterexamples of how not to talk about immigration. (Needless to say, he didn't mention Jan Brewer, Rand Paul, Nathan Deal, Rick Stott, Lou Barletta, Kris Kobach, etc. etc.) [Rubio Republicans, by John Fund, Wall Street Journal, November 9, 2010]

Yet a look at the Hispanic Republicans shows that rather than taking a "hardline immigration position", they simply mouthed a few empty platitudes about opposing amnesty while doing little to assure Americans that they will actually crack down on illegal immigration—much less, needless to say, curbing legal immigration.

My conclusion: These people need to be watched.

·        Marco Rubio, U.S. Senator, Florida

Ipso facto the poster boy for the Rubio Republicans is Marco Rubio. Yet he is perhaps the most suspect of the bunch.

In 2008, Rubio blocked a number of patriotic immigration bills in the Florida legislature. The Miami Herald reported:

"Florida lawmakers looking to pass bills targeted at curbing illegal immigration faced one major hurdle this session—convincing South Florida legislators, who hold key leadership positions in the House and Senate, to support their cause. Without the backing of House Speaker Marco Rubio, the first Cuban-American to hold the position, the bills failed to get any major play in their committees. Six weeks into the session, a three-hour workshop was held on the six House bills, but even that failed to produce its desired intent of combining the bills into one larger committee bill.

"'Speaker Rubio outlined the priorities of the session and this didn't fall under that list,' said [Rep. David] Rivera, one of Rubio's lieutenants."

[VDARE.com note: At the time, David Rivera was a state Representative, but now he's one more Hispanic Republican in Congress.]

[Miami-Dade lawmakers stymie immigration bills, by Laura Figueroa, Miami Herald, April 17, 2008]

When Arizona enacted SB 1070, Rubio wrote:

"Arizona's policy shows the difficulty and limitations of states trying to act piecemeal to solve what is a serious federal problem… I think aspects of the law, especially that dealing with 'reasonable suspicion,' are going to put our law enforcement officers in an incredibly difficult position. It could also unreasonably single out people who are here legally, including many American citizens."

Rubio eventually flip-flopped—after the conservative grassroots embraced Arizona. But he still made sure to qualify that we need "a legal immigration system that works" (a.k.a. more legal immigration) and that we must "Understand that what Arizona is facing is different from anything Florida has ever faced... Frankly, very few states in the country can imagine what that's like." (i.e. no other state should consider enacting a similar bill.

[Exclusive: Rubio Clarifies Critique of Arizona Law, by Jason Mattera, Human Events, May 6, 2010]

  • Francisco Canseco, Texas 23

Canseco beat out a Hispanic Democrat, Ciro Rodriguez. The 23rd Congressional district covers over half of the Texas-Mexico border, so border security is an important issue.

To his credit, Canseco's platform on immigration was headed: Securing Our Borders and Targeting Criminal Illegal Aliens. He stated:

"Beyond the threat of terrorism, our security is also threatened by illegal immigrant gangs, drug cartels, and human smugglers. We must make it a top priority to provide the funding, equipment, and personnel necessary to identify, apprehend, and incarcerate or deport these criminals. It will send a message that we are serious and we are coming after them.

"For those who wish to come to our country to seek a better life and make America their home, they must do so by obeying our laws and complying with our rules. Amnesty is simply NOT AN OPTION." [VDARE.COM links added]

At first glance this sounds good. But using the phrase "targeting criminal illegal aliens" and "top priority" is suspicious: these are the Obama Administration's favorite euphemism for not doing anything about the millions of illegal aliens who are not rapists or gang members.

I have not found any more detailed information on Canseco's immigration stance. So we'll have to keep an eye on him—and hope for the best.

  • Blake Farenthold, Texas 27

Assuming he withstands a recount, Blake Farenthold's victory over Solomon Ortiz could be one of the most gratifying results of Election 2010. American immigration patriots certainly will not miss Ortiz, who sponsored the latest mass amnesty bill.

Farenthold (who says in spite of his name that he's Hispanic) is certainly an improvement. But we shouldn't expect too much from him:

"The GOP challenger said he's happy to have tea party support but added that 'a lot of the hard-core Republicans may actually see me as soft on immigration' because he supports 'a path to U.S. citizenship' for illegal immigrants." [Anti-incumbent sentiment makes inroads in South Texas, by Will Weissert, Associated Press, October 28, 2010]

After this AP piece came out, Farenthold attempted (not surprisingly) to "clarify" his position:

"I oppose amnesty (sometimes called a path to citizenship)…I do, however, support allowing in more people in who can pass a background check and can show they have a job lined up. This could take the form of a guest worker program or be a system that eventually leads to citizenship."

In other words, he does support a "path to U.S. Citizenship"!! [AP story Gets Immigration Wrong, Blake Farenthold for Congress, October 29, 2010]

After Farenthold was elected, Congressional Quarterly profiled him. It reported:

"He backs tougher employer sanctions and tighter border security. He also supports a guest worker program that would bring more people into the country if they have jobs waiting and says that such a program could include a path to citizenship. But he argues that those who arrived in the United States illegally must go to the 'back of the line' in terms of seeking permanent residency."

[112th Congress: Leading at Press Time: Blake Farenthold, R-Texas (27th District), John Bickell, CQ Politics, November 3, 2010],

My conclusion: hmmmmmmmmmmm.

  • Bill Flores, Texas 17

Flores defeated white Democratic incumbent Chet Edwards who had a C-rating from Numbers USA. Edwards was pretty bad, but (unlike John Boehner) he voted for the Border Protection, Antiterrorism, and Illegal Immigration Control Act in 2005.

Flores answered NumbersUSA's survey perfectly, including indicating support for reducing legal immigration and ending birthright citizenship.

However, his platform left much to be desired:

"Enforcement First - On the issue of illegal immigration, I will never support any program which grants unilateral amnesty to those who have broken our laws. Solving our illegal immigration issue and the billions of dollars of costs associated with it starts by fully enforcing our laws. For those who wish to come to our country, they must do so by obeying our laws and complying with our system. I fully recognize we need to improve the path to citizenship, just as we need to value the hard work of folks who become American citizens legally. Right now, however, it is important we focus on securing our borders, enforcing our laws, and targeting criminal illegal aliens who threaten our neighborhoods and safety." [Emphasis added—WW]

"Enforcement First"? The late, great Terry Anderson called "First" the "F-Word"—because it may as well mean, I'll support amnesty in a few years. When it comes to illegal immigration, what's needed is not "enforcement first"—it's "enforcement period".

Bill Flores has reiterated his openness to amnesty more recently. He told the Waco Tribune:

"I believe we cannot address those who are here illegally until we secure the border. For the 10 million to 12 million illegal aliens in our country today, an illegal act cannot create a legal right. We need to find out who is here illegally, where they are, what they are doing and begin to process them through existing laws."

Additionally, Flores qualified his support for E-Verify: "We must greatly improve the speed and accuracy of the E-Verify system." [District 17 Q&A with Chet Edwards, Bill Flores: What should we do with the 10-12 million illegals in the U.S.? Waco Tribune, October 22, 2010]

E-Verify literally takes minutes to get a response back, and is virtually flawless.

I can only think that Flores made this qualification so that he could oppose mandating E-Verify until it is "improved".

A bad sign.

·         Raul Labrador: Idaho 1

Puerto Rican immigration attorney Labrador defeated Democratic incumbent Walt Minnick—who actually ran to his right on immigration. As I explained in a previous column, Labrador's platform advocated that we "offer illegals an incentive to come forward". He is already planning to go on the Immigration Subcommittee. [Raul Labrador's Position on Illegal Immigration, Labrador for Congress, August 24, 2010]

Labrador somehow managed to get Joe Arpaio's support during the election. And answered all of NumbersUSA's questions perfectly, including those about reducing legal immigration (although he left birthright citizenship blank).

Perhaps Labrador will keep those promises. But I'm not holding my breath.

  • Susana Martinez, New Mexico Governor

Immediately after her election, Martinez appeared on Univision and was she was asked if she supported Arizona's SB 1070. She replied: "No, no, I don't want that for New Mexico." [N.M. governor-elect says 'no' to Ariz.-style immigration law, BY USA Today November 8, 2010]

And according to Politico.com: "While Republicans in Washington want to reopen debate on Birthright Citizenship guaranteed by the 14th Amendment, Martinez opposes changing the amendment." [GOP hopeful faces immigration bind, by Simmi Aujla, Politico.com, September 3, 2010]

But Martinez subsequently talked tough on CNN, challenging President Obama to secure the border:

"I don't support amnesty… there has to be some other way of dealing with the issue…It may be we identify individuals but we cannot just have a path to citizenship created when there are people in line already doing the proper things."

[Governor-elect's message for Obama, Gabriella Schwarz, CNN, November 10, 2010]

The gestalt of this statement is that Martinez is open to some sort of legalization of illegal aliens—yet she does say she opposes amnesty.

  • Brian Sandoval, Nevada Governor

Of all the new Hispanic Republicans, Sandoval seems perhaps the most promising. He campaigned to the right of incumbent governor Jim Gibbons in the primaries and supported Arizona's SB 1070.  

Like all of the new crop of Hispanic Republicans, except possibly Martinez, Sandoval is ethnically white. When he was asked by Univision if he was worried about his kids being racially profiled, he replied with endearing artlessness: "My children don't look Hispanic."

Of course, this is also true of everyone on Univision, every single Hispanic Republican—and (for that matter) the majority of Hispanic Democratic politicians. Still, the usual suspects expressed outrage.

Sandoval initially denied saying it. But when the video came out, he responded: "If I did say those words, it was wrong and I sincerely regret it. I am proud of my heritage and my family." [Nevada's Brian Sandoval catching fire for comments on his kids and Arizona's immigration law, By Andrew Malcolm, LA Times, July 30, 2010]

Apologies aside, this exchange may be telling. Perhaps Sandoval does not view himself as "Hispanic" (and why should he? It's an entirely bogus census category). He may not feel compelled to support the organized Hispanic Agenda.

That said, Sandoval has made some very questionable statements on immigration. The Las Vegas Sun reported on an exchange about driver's licenses for illegal aliens at a debate:

"'It's an issue that I would strongly consider,' he says, after being asked about it by a woman who says she represents Hispanic insurers. 'Folks who are gonna be out driving anyway, we should know who they are, they should be insured. That protects everybody.'

"He is then asked again if he favors the idea.

"'I would consider it, yes.'"

Sandoval then "clarified" his position:

"As a former judge, I normally consider all the arguments on most issues…I did consider the arguments on this issue, but the potential of legitimizing illegal immigration would outweigh the civil protections of mandatory insurance or data collection. Therefore, I would not support driver's licenses for undocumented immigrants."

[After back and forth, Sandoval says no to driver's licenses for undocumented immigrants, by J. Patrick Coolican, Las Vegas Sun, April 7, 2010]

If Sandoval makes his first act as governor to demand that the legislature pass a SB 1070 style piece of legislation, then I'll be willing to give him the benefit of the doubt.

So what should we make out of these new Hispanic Republicans? With the exception of Labrador, everyone one of them is better on immigration than the Democrat they defeated.

Assuming they even keep half of their campaign promises, they are all better than the current crop of Hispanic Republicans. But we knew that Mel Martinez and Solomon Ortiz were terrible on immigration.

Ominously, these new Hispanic Republicans who pretend to be with us are already being championed by the Politically Correct conservative Establishment—what VDARE.COM has called the "Righteous Right"—as the future of the party.

Open Borders Republican columnist Ruben Navarrette quotes Hispanic political consultant Frank Guerra: "We haven't solved the problem (of alienating Hispanics) but we're on the right track" and adds himself, "if the GOP is smart, it'll let a new crop of Hispanic Republicans lead the way." [March of Hispanic Republicans, by Ruben Navarrette, November 7, 2010]

My conclusion: do not be surprised if we start hearing Rubio or Labrador telling us that they too oppose immigration, but we need to change our "tone"—and that certain issues such as Birthright Citizenship and cutting legal immigration, are "off-limits".

Let's hope that these new "Rubio Republicans" keep their promises on border security and amnesty.

But let's not expect that they are really on America's side.

"Washington Watcher" [email him] is an anonymous source Inside The Beltway.