Mitt Romney packed the audience for a Univision forum earlier this week, BuzzFeed’s McKay Coppins reports, busing in local supporters “after exhausting the few conservative groups on campus.” The campaign threatened to “reschedule” the event if organizers did not allow the “rowdy activists from around southern Florida in order to fill the extra seats at their town hall.”
Romney also refused to come out on stage after the hosts introduced him by noting that he “had agreed to give the network 35 minutes, and that Obama had agreed to a full hour the next night.” Univision re-taped the introduction after Romney allegedly “threw a tantrum.”
During the event, Romney dodged four questions about whether he would maintain President Obama’s directive allowing young undocumented immigrants to stay in the United States on a temporary basis and said that he is happy to be known as “the grandfather of Obamacare.”
Romney has a history of padding the audience. During a speech before National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO) in June, the GOP presidential candidate also brought in his supporters to the address.
Last week, former Republican House Speaker Newt Gingrich announced his run for the presidency. If he wins the Republican primary, Gingrich will have to garner the votes of a sizable percentage of the Latino vote to make it all the way to the White House. It’s no coincidence that one of Gingrich’s first appearances as a presidential candidate was on one of the most popular Spanish-language programs, Unvision’s Al Punto.
Anchor Jorge Ramos grilled Gingrich on his immigration platform which will play a big role in how Latinos vote in 2012. While the immigration debate during the Republican primary leading up to the 2008 presidential election focused on which candidate could present himself as being the toughest on the issue, Gingrich clumsily staked out a middle ground, suggesting that it might be a good idea to set up local community panels that decide which immigrants get to stay and which don’t. Gingrich’s remarks were cut out of the final video clip on Univision’s website, but they were included in a transcript of the interview issued by the network:
RAMOS: Exactly what do you mean? What are you going to do with the 11 million undocumented immigrants in this country? You are not for immigration reform, I mean, you will not favor legalizing 11 million people in this country.
GINGRICH: I would favor finding steps that determine who is clearly going to remain in the United States and I think you got to start from that point
RAMOS: But how can we do it?
GINGRICH: First, somebody who’s been here 20 years, somebody who’s been here 20 years and is married and has three kids and has been paying taxes and lived a totally peaceful life and is a citizen – but by the way they came here 20 years ago outside the law. We got to find the way to routinize and get them in the law without necessarily getting them on a path to citizenship. Now there ought to be a way to do that. And one of the things I’m looking at, and this may come as a surprise to you, is in World War II we had a selective service board where every local community could apply common sense to the draft process.
We may want to think about a citizen board that can actually look at things and decide, is this a person that came in two months ago and doesn’t nearly have any ties here? Or is this a person who clearly is integrated into the society but unfortunately has been undocumented, therefore, we have to rethink how we are approaching them.
Gingrich didn’t get the chance to flesh out his vision of “citizen boards,” but it sounds like Gingrich is essentially proposing local communities take up individual citizenship applications on a case-by-case basis. It’s hard to imagine that such boards would be either a fair of efficient way to deal with the nation’s broken immigration system. Yet, as long as a comprehensive legislative solution remains taboo within the GOP, Republican candidates who are smart enough to recognize the importance of the Latino vote will have to think creatively about how to address one of the most pressing issues facing the Latino community.
Gingrich’s new stance differs from the proposal he extensively laid out on Al Punto in 2009. Back then, Gingrich suggested that the best way to deal with the undocumented population would be to convince 11 million undocumented immigrants to leave their families and jobs in the U.S., go back to their home countries for two to three years, in exchange for a temporary guest-worker visa.
And although Gingrich worried in the past that American civilization will “decay” unless the government declares English the nation’s official language, he is now starting to learn some Spanish himself. At the end of his interview, Gingrich announced his candidacy in Spanish and awkwardly asked Ramos, “Do I get an A? Do I get an A, B or C on that?” Ramos replied, “I guess, let’s wait for the voters to decide.”
In an interview with Univision, senatorial candidate and son of Cuban immigrants, Marco Rubio (R-FL) told the Spanish language network that he doesn’t like to use the term “illegal” and prefers “undocumented” when talking about immigrants in the U.S. without papers:
UNIVISION: Is there a difference between an illegal and an undocumented?
RUBIO: Well “illegal” is a term that I don’t like to use, though it is a violation of the law to enter the U.S. with documents. They’re humans. I prefer to talk about the issue as “undocumented” because they are people who don’t have documents that follow the law.
Watch the Univision video and past clips of Rubio’s immigration remarks [In English and Spanish]:
I couldn’t find any clips in which Rubio ever employed the term “undocumented.” To his credit, in recent months, he has talked about undocumented immigrants as “people who come to the U.S. illegally.” However, when he was fighting a tough primary in which he tried to portray his opponent, Gov. Charlie Crist, as soft on immigration, Rubio didn’t hesitate to use the term “illegal immigrant”:
In February, Rubio opted to use “illegal immigrants” when arguing that undocumented immigrants should be excluded from the census, saying:
“Gov. Crist’s position to include illegal immigrants in this count would dilute the voting power of every American citizen. It would actually incentivize politicians to perpetuate our broken immigration system by rewarding states with large illegal immigrant populations with a louder voice in Washington.”
When he “delivered a six-minute discourse on immigration policy” back in November in which he slammed Ronald Reagan’s support of the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 (IRCA), Rubio stated:
“There were people trying to enter the country legally, who had done the paperwork, who were here legally, who were going through the process, who claimed, all of a sudden, ‘No, no no no , I’m illegal.’ Because it was easier to do the amnesty program than it was to do the legal process.”
Rubio also appears to have no problem with the fact that the term regularly appears on his website:
“Crist’s only real Social Security plan is to grant amnesty to illegal immigrants but that has actually been debunked as an idea that would lead to Social Security’s bankruptcy sooner rather than later.”
Many in the Latino and immigrant communities find the term “illegal immigrant” offensive because it “qualifies an entire person, rather than an act.”
This past weekend Rubio stated on CNN’s State of the Union that he supports fixing the legal immigration system so that “people in this country without documents” can go back to their home countries and reenter the country legally. In his interview with Univision, Rubio explained that he supports modernizing the immigration system so that undocumented immigrants can enter the U.S. through a process that works, but didn’t mention anything about going back to their “homeland.” You can watch the full interview here.
Robert de Posada, the man behind the group telling Latino voters not to vote, has denied any affiliation with the Republican Party, or that he is trying to advance the party in close elections. The GOP has similarly distanced itself from de Posada’s controversial ads. However, besides the fact that de Posada’s own resume includes stints at the RNC and Bush White House, de Posada is toeing the conservative line.
For someone who claims to be independent, de Posada’s message is closely aligned with the Spanish-language talking points espoused by GOP pundits like Ana Navarro and Alfonso Aguilar, and Republican lawmaker Mario Diaz-Balart who constantly claim: 1) Democrats promised Latinos immigration reform and have done nothing; 2) Democrats are in “full control” and would’ve passed immigration reform if they were really serious about it; 3) Latinos shouldn’t look at the Republican party’s record, but rather the record of each individual candidate:
DE POSADA: The Democrats, particularly Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, promised us immigration reform two years ago in one year. After that, he hasn’t done anything. There’s hasn’t been one vote in one subcommittee.
DIAZ-BALART: Let’s be clear, the President — on your program — said that in his first 12 months he would present and approve immigration reform. He didn’t do it in his first 12 months, he didn’t do it in his second 12 months. Basically, he used us. NAVARRO: President Obama has talked and talked talked. He told our community — on your program — that he would pass immigration reform within his first year in office. We all agree that President Obama has talked a lot about immigration reform, but he’s done little. AGUILAR: During the 2008 elections, they [Democrats] said they would do something about immigration. In two years they haven’t done anything.
DE POSADA:He [Reid] has the power to do whatever he wants. Besides that, he didn’t need the Republicans for health care reform, for the stimulus, for finance reform, for a number of things. Why didn’t he do that for Latinos? You know why? Because we aren’t his priority.
DIAZ-BALART: They [Democrats] blame Republicans, but we all know that the Democrats control the House, the White House and the Senate. If they were serious about approving immigration reform, they would’ve done it by now the way they did with health care reform. NAVARRO: I think Republican senators don’t feel that the White House is serious about this issue. Evidently they did have 60 votes to pass health care reform, evidently they have 60 votes to pass economic things. They have 60 votes when the White House puts forth all its support. AGUILAR: They tell us that it’s the Republicans, but the truth is they know that they don’t have all the Democratic votes. They had the votes to pass health care reform, but what happened with immigration reform? Absolutely nothing.
DE POSADA: They [Latinos] have to evaluate the records of the candidates.
NAVARRO: Latinos have to evaluate each candidate — their values, where they are on different issues. AGUILAR: The important thing is not to make generalizations. [..] The Latino voter has to balance and look at all the issues. Immigration is one issue, it’s not the only issue for Latinos.
Watch it [in Spanish]:
Most Republicans aren’t coming out and telling Latinos not to vote. However, when Republicans slam Democrats on Spanish-language television they usually don’t mention that Democrats have been unable to push immigration reform due to Republican obstructionism that has delayed — if not stalled — the entire White House’s agenda. They also fail to note that while the majority of Democrats support immigration reform, it doesn’t have the same support that other policy proposals have and that more Republicans are needed to enact it. However, while Democrats could’ve done more to move immigration reform, it has been pretty clear that the GOP support needed to make it happen is non-existent. Finally, even if Latino voters ignored the Republican Party’s overarching anti-immigrant platform and just looked at individual candidates, they’d still be hard-pressed to find many Republicans who are willing to fight for the Latino community’s interests.
In an interview with radio host, Eddie “Piolin” Sotelo, President Obama explained, “There is a notion that somehow if I had worked it hard enough, we could have magically done it. That’s just not the way our system works. If I need 60 votes to get this done, then I’m gonna have to have some support from the other side. If the Latino community decides to sit out this election, then there will be fewer votes and it will be less likely to get done. And the other side, which is fighting against this, is not gonna support it.”
By Andrea Nill Sanchez on Oct 19, 2010 at 10:50 am
Yesterday, Latinos for Reform — a Republican 527 group — announced that it purchased an $80,000 buy on Univision to air ads urging Nevada Latino voters not to vote. Robert de Posada, a conservative political consultant and political analyst for Univision, has described the ad as an expression of the Latino community’s frustration with the lack of immigration reform. Apparently, telling Latino voters not to vote will somehow empower them. “It’s the only way for Hispanics to stand up and demand some attention,” de Posada claims. “I can’t ask people to support a Republican candidate who has taken a completely irresponsible and bordering on racist position on immigration,” he said about senatorial candidate Sharron Angle (R-NV). (As a side note, the ad doesn’t mention Angle or the fact that Republicans have been obstructing reform for the past year).
Watch the ad in English and in Spanish:
I agree with my colleagues who have blasted de Posada and the logic of his argument. However, my question is: Why is Univision even airing it?
Univision is a critical partner in the non-partisan Latino civic participation campaign, Ya Es Hora. According to the campaign’s website, Ya Es Hora “represents the largest and most comprehensive effort to incorporate Latinos as full participants in the American political process.”
In 2008, Univision Communications even received a Peabody Award for “outstanding public service” and “the role it is playing with multipronged citizenship and get-out-the-vote efforts in hundreds of Spanish-speaking communities throughout the U.S.” Upon receiving the award Cesar Conde, president of Univision Networks, stated “Univision has always been regarded as a champion and defender of Hispanic culture and empowerment since its inception 40 years ago. The involvement in issues like education, health care and civic engagement are core to what we do in our day-to-day business.”
The Univision Communications PAC has meanwhile given $2,500 to Friends of Harry Reid.
Obviously, Univision is a private company, not a public interest organization. It is free to air the ads of whomever it wants. However, it seems odd that the network would accept $80,000 to air a message that isn’t just fundamentally at odds with its own self-professed mantra, but also directly contradicts the goals of a campaign it has already invested significant resources in. Airing ads encouraging its viewers not to exercise the power of their vote in this year’s midterm elections raises serious questions about Univision’s commitment to its own corporate ethics. And if the ads are successful, it’s also probably bad business.
Univision has informed me that it will not be airing Latino for Reform’s ads.
For the past several months, almost every time Univision’s Al Punto anchor Jorge Ramos appears on air, he reminds his viewers of “la promesa de Obama,” or, “Obama’s promise.” What Ramos is referring to is the promise the candidate Barack Obama made to Latino voters back in 2008 that the nation would have a comprehensive immigration reform bill that he would back within his first year in office. The truth is, thus far, Obama over-promised and under-delivered. Rather than fixing the broken immigration system and overseeing the legalization of 11.5 million undocumented immigrants, the Obama administration has been responsible for a record-setting number of deportations, more 287(g) partnerships, and beefed up border enforcement. The Latino community is rightfully furious that their families continue to be ripped apart and they are understandably frustrated with Obama’s failure to provide the change and relief he once promised. However, Ramos has turned “la promesa de Obama” into a rallying cry that distracts attention from the real villians of this year’s immigration debate.
While “la promesa de Obama” certainly speaks to many of the mistakes the President has made on immigration — an initial lack of presidential leadership during the first year of his presidency coupled with stepped-up enforcement measures — it also fails to capture the political limitations in which the Obama administration has been working. In his January 2010 piece entitled, “La promesa de Obama,” Ramos mentions Republicans once. Politico reports that, overall, Spanish-language media “say they never expected much from the GOP.” Maybe they should expect more.
Perhaps the confusion begins with a fundamental misunderstanding of the President’s responsibilities. When Ramos was asked by Politico what he would do if he were President, Ramos responded “immigration reform that includes a path to citizenship for 11 million people” in the form of an executive decision. However, though a President can take a strong leadership role in crafting and pushing legislation, it’s ultimately Congress’ job to introduce and pass any bill — and, regardless of what you “expect” from them, that involves Republican cooperation. Obama could pursue administrative relief by legalizing 11.5 undocumented immigrants on his own, however, besides being a political disaster, it’s an interim solution that could be easily undone and isn’t really what Obama promised in the first place.
Obama always made clear that immigration reform stood in a line with health care reform, energy legislation, and financial regulatory changes. Republicans, meanwhile, have pursued a strategy of dragging out almost every single piece of legislation that Democrats put before them. And the harder the White House has pushed its legislative agenda, the more united the right has pushed back. To add insult to injury, following the passage of health care reform, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) — the only Republican planning on co-sponsoring an immigration bill — pulled out, saying the “well has been poisoned.” Since then, Republicans in Congress have shifted their focus to things like border security and overturning the 14th amendment to deny the American-born children of undocumented immigrants citizenship. Meanwhile, the country didn’t get financial regulatory reform until July and it’s still waiting on climate change legislation in addition to immigration reform. In a nutshell, Obama could’ve kept his promise and helped Democrats draft and introduce immigration reform in Congress — though it wouldn’t have gone very far. In the absence of Republican support, it basically would’ve boiled down to cheap political symbolism that wouldn’t have brought Latinos much closer to the solutions they demand and need.
During this critical pre-election season, “la promesa de Obama” has turned into a political slogan that has troubling implications for the Latino vote. You don’t need an expert to tell you that Republicans won’t be picking up too many new Latino voters this November. However, those experts are also saying that “President Barack Obama will have a hard time getting out the Hispanic vote he badly needs in November to keep his party’s control of Congress.” While it’s certainly important to keep the pressure on Democrats, Spanish language media may want to dedicate at least as much energy to reminding its audience of what a Republican-controlled Congress means for “la promesa de Obama.” For that matter, so should Democrats. In 2010, it’s hard for Latinos to find a political champion in either party. If they don’t vote, it’ll be even harder to find one in 2011. It’s time for the “Walter Cronkite of Spanish-language media” to look towards the future as much as he reminds Obama of the past.