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Op-ed: GOP attempt to woo Latinos won’t work

By Chris Zepeda-Millan –

Republicans are busy promoting Florida Sen. Marco Rubio because they know they have a big problem courting Latinos, a voting bloc that Time magazine recently predicted could decide the next presidential election.

Most Latinos are in no mood to vote Republican after Mitt Romney refused to support in-state tuition for students who arrived here as infants with their undocumented parents and after he urged “self-deportation.”

Most Latinos are in no mood to vote Republican after Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer signed a law that granted local police the authority to check the citizenship status of people who “look illegal.”

Most Latinos are in no mood to vote Republican after Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley signed a law that echoed Arizona’s and then went even further, depriving undocumented people of any public benefits whatsoever.

These actions shouldn’t be surprising, given that Republicans have a history of anti-Latino legislation, from then-California Gov. Pete Wilson’s support for the infamous state ballot measure Proposition 187 in 1994 to House Republicans’ passage of the draconian 2005 “Sensenbrenner Bill” (which sparked the largest Latino protests in U.S. history).

But because of the importance of the Latino vote in the coming presidential race, Republican strategists are considering adding Rubio on to their presidential ticket. They expect Latinos to forget about the past and vote for the GOP because one of their candidates has a Spanish surname.

This logic is not only condescending, it’s insulting. It demonstrates the GOP’s ignorance of the distinctions between traditionally conservative Cuban-Americans (who make up only 3.5 percent of all Latinos) and the rest of the Latino population, more than two-thirds of whom voted Democrat during the last presidential election.

The same week that the Cuban-American senator endorsed flip-flopper Romney, Rubio himself performed one of the biggest belly-flops of his career, stating that he’s working on an alternative version of the DREAM Act that would “offer legal status without a pathway to citizenship.” Rubio’s version is such a far cry from the original DREAM Act that a New York Times editorial called it “A Dream Act Without the Dream.”

The junior senator from Florida has never supported the federal DREAM Act. He is attempting to retain his hard-line stance against a bill that would benefit thousands of undocumented Latino youth, while at the same time creating an opportunity to deceive Latino voters by claiming that he “technically” has supported a version of the legislation. The Hill newspaper succinctly explained the motivations behind these actions: “Senate Republicans want to alter DREAM Act legislation to steal away Hispanic voters from Democrats.”

As it stands, the DREAM Act is already a center-right compromise, with the only options to become merely eligible for citizenship being military service or attending college. These provisions mean that undocumented youth would have to fulfill requirements for citizenship that the vast majority of U.S.-born Americans themselves would not be able to meet.

Rubio knows the DREAM Act is important to Latinos: Not only do 90 percent of Latinos nationwide support the bill, but so do 78 percent of Latino voters in Florida, 68 percent of Latino Republicans and even 74 percent of traditionally conservative Cuban Latinos. In fact, 70 percent of the general U.S. public supports the bill, as well.

If Rubio gets his way, undocumented youth would continue to contribute their talents, skills and labor to our nation, but they would remain deportable. And if they stayed here, they would endure a life of taxation without representation. Unfortunately for Republicans, Latinos know the difference between a dream and a nightmare.

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