GOP alienates Latinos, should examine Hawaii
By Ann McFeaters
Yard signs and election banners have sprouted everywhere in Hawaii. Tulsi Gabbard, Colleen Hanabusa and Mufi Hannemann want to go to Congress. Mazie Hirono wants to be a senator.
Notice the wonderful collage of ethnic heritages. Hawaii is like that, rich in diversity and cultures. Hawaii, which really is a state, birthers, is not a place where immigration is a bad word, unlike Arizona, for example.
Someday, we must hope, all states will be like Hawaii in appreciating that America is as great as it is because it has been the world's melting pot.
That is why it is puzzling that Republicans have gone on a rampage against immigration this election year when they really need Hispanic votes.
Complicating the picture will be the Supreme Court's decision in a couple of months either upholding or striking down Arizona's tough law on illegal immigration. Arguing that federal restrictions are not strict enough, Arizona permits state authorities to stop and question people at random, searching for people here illegally.
Many believe that Arizona has unconstitutionally usurped the federal government's role on regulating immigration. Others worry that Arizona's law is a violation of civil liberties. But there is a very real possibility that the high court will uphold the Arizona statute and that other states will follow Arizona's lead.
Mitt Romney supports Arizona's right to stop and question people authorities deem suspicious, demanding proof of citizenship on the spot. President Barack Obama, who grew up in Hawaii, thinks Arizona's law is atrocious.
Obama promised action on the messy, murky immigration issue, as did four presidents before him. Nothing happened although the administration has increased deportation of those in the United States illegally. But the recession has greatly reduced the number of people seeking to come to the United States, both legally and illegally. There is research indicating that more Mexicans are leaving the U.S. than are entering it.
This form of "self-deportment," in Romney's most unfortunate phrase, is not satisfying Republicans, however. Like Romney, they don't even want to talk about how to make life better for immigrants but how to make it so awful and difficult they will want to leave. So much for "compassionate conservatism."
The problem for Republicans is that Hispanics who were ready to be wooed because of the bad economy now are regarding Republican candidates at all levels with alarm. The presidential election in November will be so tight that if a significant number of Hispanics turned their backs on Obama, Romney would win. Romney's harsh rhetoric on immigration makes that all but impossible.
And what has Romney gained? He would say the GOP nomination. But there is no way he can take back his policies, which seem to many Hispanics to be mean-spirited and even cruel. If legal citizens are made to feel afraid in their own country, they will not vote for Romney even if they would like to take a chance on his being able to get the economy up and running again.
There are many solutions to the problems created when 12 million people don't have the rights and privileges of citizenship. But the politicians are so cowed by the fact that none of the ideas on the table will make everyone happy that they choose again and again to do nothing. As a result, we are in serious danger of getting overrun with emotions that are far too close to outright racism.
One of the debates this autumn between Obama and Romney should be entirely on immigration. And both men should be pressed to be precise on how they would handle the issue. Both men have spoken in platitudes too many times; they must not be permitted to do that any longer.
The rest of the world has long admired the way America assimilated strangers to her shores while applauding the unique cultures and traditions they brought here. Hawaii, our newest state, is a perfect example.
Ann McFeatters is an editorial writer for Scripps Howard News Service.