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The GOP's growing Hispanic rift

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Guest opinion

The GOP's growing Hispanic rift

By failing to embrace immigrants, Republicans are making themselves largely irrelevant

I am a Mexican American and a Republican.

I remember distinctly when I first picked sides: election night, 1988. I was four. My family had just arrived in the United States. We lived in a tiny apartment in central Tucson, Arizona.

I don't remember much about the election. But I remember my mother, in Spanish, enunciating the candidates' names clearly. Bush. Dukakis. Doo – ka – kis. The Spanish equivalent of "doo-doo" is caca. My electoral choice was clear, Bush it was.

Fast forward twenty years, and I found myself in the midst of a heated presidential campaign, running a small grassroots office in Northwest Tucson for another Bush.

I recruited hundreds and hundreds of volunteers out of that office. During breaks, the volunteers would sit around chatting, and the conversation would often turn to immigration. They spoke frankly around me, their notional boss. Perhaps they had not heard my last name: My family is pale, and my fair, freckly skin looks more Irish than Mexican.

Some of the things I heard coming from these volunteers, regarding "the Mexicans," shook me: about how they should be kept out, about how the border fence could not be built high enough, made it seem as if we were the real threat to American society, as if we were the real terrorists, hiding in caves in the Sonoran desert, waiting for the right moment to strike.

I was completely torn. I relied on these volunteers, some were friends, some were mentors, and I needed them to complete my task, to play a small part in getting Bush reelected. But it broke my heart to see a party I identified with, people I identified with, so irretrievably misguided about immigration and in a deeper sense, about the meaning of America.

Six years later, my state has enacted a controversial anti-illegal-alien measure, SB 1070. The law reflects genuine frustration on the part of Arizonans with federal immigration policy. Yet it also strikes at the core of my vision of the party and of the American dream.

It pains me to see and hear so many Republicans express anti-immigrant sentiments, and it strikes me as politically fruitless to see so many Republicans support measures such as SB 1070. The Rush Limbaughs and Chris Simcoxs of the world embarrass the party, and it pains me even more to think that the party of Lincoln, Goldwater, and Reagan, is dragged down in anti-immigrant rancor.

The GOP is not yet obsolete, nor should it be. Immigrants will embrace Republican ideals and in turn strengthen both the party and the country with a strong new base of diverse, thriving American dreamers.

This piece is excerpted from the original, posted at

Robert Gonzalez graduated from Stanford Law School in 2009 and is currently an attorney working in Washington, D.C.

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