By Maria L. La Ganga, Los Angeles Times –
LAS VEGAS — As the only Republican candidate for president to address Nevada’s oldest Latino political organization Wednesday morning, Rep. Ron Paul got high marks for bravery. All were invited; only he showed up.
He was cheered by members of Hispanics in Politics when he talked about bringing American troops home from “wars we shouldn’t be involved in.” The audience — dozens of politically active Latinos who gathered in an eastside community center — applauded Paul the civil libertarian when he slammed drug laws that unfairly target minorities. They even cheered his defense of the gold standard.
Immigration, however, was another story.
The 12-term Texas congressman spent the better part of a 25-minute address thinking aloud about the thorny subject. He talked about how Americans are more accepting of outsiders when the economy is good, but when trouble looms there is a search for scapegoats.
“I believe Hispanics have been used as scapegoats, to say, they’re the problem instead of being a symptom maybe of a problem with the welfare state,” Paul told the group. “In Nazi Germany they had to have scapegoats to blame and they turned on the Jews.
“Now there’s a lot of antagonism and resentment turned just automatically on immigrants,” he continued. “You say, no not immigrants, it’s just illegal immigrants. I do believe in legal immigration. I want to have a provision to obey those laws. You have to understand this in the context of the economy.”
Paul said he’s not one of those politicians who believes that “barbed wire fences and guns on our border will solve any of our problems.” That’s not, he said, the American way. And he doesn’t think that a national identification card is the way to go.
What the country does need, he said, is “a much better immigration service” fed by more resources. Not that he’d “vote for extra money.” But he does, he told the crowd, have a plan.
“If we want more immigration services and a fairer system and make it more efficient, why don’t we take the moneys we’re wasting trying to settle the problems between the borders, between Afghanistan and Pakistan,” he said to warm applause. “Bring those troops home and use those resources to have a much more efficient system here at home.”
Paul was strong on sentiment but slight on specifics for how to address the difficult issue. He wouldn’t just ship millions of illegal immigrants home. And he said he thinks it’s an injustice to send young people back to countries of origin they never knew if they were brought to this country illegally as babies.
“In order to clarify it,” Paul said, “if people have been here for so many years, and they don’t qualify for being rounded up and sent back to the country of origin, get them a work card. Even put an asterisk on it.”
He was very clear about one immigration issue though. At the end of his speech, a young woman asked how Paul felt about the Dream Act, which provides a path to citizenship for minors who came to this country illegally.
“I can’t endorse the Dream Act, because there’s a lot of money involved,” he told the silent crowd. “There’s a lot of subsidies in there, billions of dollars. That’s a little bit different from what I’ve been talking about, taking money from one group and giving it to another and thinking we’re going to solve these problems. I really don’t think that is the case.”
Hispanics in Politics is a non-partisan organization, and many of the people Paul addressed were Democrats and unable to caucus on Saturday. Many were also skeptical.
Annette Raveneau, who works for a non-profit organization called Know Your Care, said she was unimpressed by his discussion of immigration in general and the Dream Act in particular.
“My concern was with the dreamers,” she said, referring the young people who would be impacted if the law passed. “The question was about what is he going to do for them to stay here. He was very, blah, blah, blah about it. He didn’t really answer the question.”
Linda Cavazos, a former teacher and former Republican, had similar concerns about the fate of young people brought here as babies and educated in American schools.
“They don’t want to take their talents elsewhere and go back to Mexico when they’re a doctor, lawyer, engineer,” said Cavazos, who is now a marriage and family therapist. “I was disappointed in his answer. … I have to say that I do agree with a lot of his positions on individual liberties.”