By Vanessa Cárdenas
In a new low in conservative operatives’ partisan politics, an absurd political ad is telling Latinos not to vote in the upcoming elections because President Barack Obama and the Democrats have not delivered on immigration reform. While there has been no movement on immigration reform, the fact is that conservatives have stood and are standing in the way of progress on immigration reform and other key issues important to Latinos. A great majority of these conservatives are Republicans, and many of them are using immigration as a scare tactic to promote an anti-immigration and anti-Latino agenda.
True, President Obama was not able to fulfill his promise. But a number of Latino leaders have noted that a key obstacle has been Republicans’ lack of support.
Case in point: Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), the lone Republican willing to co-sponsor, backtracked and refused to sign on when there was the possibility of a comprehensive bill being introduced in the Senate by Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) last April. Republicans also could not produce even one vote in support of a motion to consider the DREAM Act, which would have allowed thousands of undocumented students go to college.
If Republicans win the majority in the House, immigration reform will be even further out of reach. This is because House Republicans have promised to promote more Arizona-like policies and more border enforcement in their “Pledge to America,” a document that outlines their governing philosophy if elected.
Republicans miss the mark altogether in other areas as well. Take the economy for example. The pledge promises to go back to “pre-stimulus, pre-bailout levels,” but this would require spending cuts that would actually generate higher unemployment while cutting or even eliminating programs that help the unemployed. It also calls for a proposed hard cap on discretionary spending, which would lead to massive cuts to programs like nutrition assistance, Head Start, and Pell grants. These cuts would hurt all struggling Americans but disproportionately Latinos.
All this in the face of double-digit unemployment rates and when one in three Latino kids lives in poverty.
It’s the same story on health care reform. Latinos have the highest uninsured rates of any racial or ethnic group. Yet the rallying cry among conservatives is the effort to repeal landmark legislation that would help close the health care disparities gap that plagues the Latino community.
Many conservative Republicans are also using undocumented immigrants to instill fear and hatred in this election cycle. In Nevada, Louisiana, and Georgia (to name a few), Republican candidates are using inflammatory images and undocumented immigration to attack those who support immigration reform. The effort by Republican lawmakers from 15 states to deny birthright citizenship doesn’t go unnoticed, either.
Does this mean that Democrats are Latinos’ best friends or that every conservative is evil? Not at all. There are, after all, a number of conservative Democrats who choose to follow an anti-immigration agenda just as there are Republicans who are on the right side of these issues. But even so, Republicans on balance have inflicted and continue to recklessly inflict the most damage at the local and national level.
And while this administration and Congress have been far from perfect, a Congress with a Republican majority promises to be far worse.
It’s time for accountability and responsibility, but the answer is not suppressing the Latino vote. Latinos can hold elected officials accountable by consistently building political power and making informed choices so that we no longer have to put up with the disrespect, manipulation, and dishonesty propagated across some conservative circles.
Vanessa Cárdenas is with the Center for American Progress Action Fund.