It takes a lot of gall to defend either Newt Gingrich or Mitt Romney in the Hispanic community nowadays. And yet, we see them out there, the Latino GOP surrogates — selling snake oil to their own people.
The Republican candidates have spent months scapegoating undocumented immigrants and sending dog-whistle, anti-Latino messages to right-wing extremists, but their surrogates apparently think Latinos are too dumb to notice.
They want us to ignore the many times these candidates have played the race and xenophobia cards to score cheap points in just the first few primaries.
They want us to forget about Herman Cain's electrified border fence, Michelle Bachmann's efforts to deny citizenship to U.S. born children of undocumented parents, Rick Perry's alliance with immigrant-bashing Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio. They don't want us to notice Rick Santorum's blatant contradictions when he portrays himself as a deeply religious, pro-family, son of immigrants and yet, he has zero compassion for those who live here without proper immigration documents.
They should be embarrassed to be defending a party that treats their people like dirt, yet they try to convince Latinos to vote for Republicans and in effect, become masochists.
Like broken records repeating talking points assigned by GOP bosses, Latino surrogates keep telling us that the Republican Party "loves" legal immigrants and that their only problem is with illegal immigration. It's hogwash!
They want to us ignore the many times Romney and Gingrich have supported ideas and measures that would trample over the civil rights of all Latinos — including some 12 million expected to vote for the president in November.
Romney and Gingrich support state laws that would lead to racial profiling against Latino Americans. They are both opposed to bilingual education. They both favor the censorship of foreign languages by making English the official language of government.
These are not anti-illegal immigrant measures; they are anti-Latino sentiments that their Latino political operatives shamefully are trying to sweep under the rug.
Instead of dealing with the issues that really concern Latinos, we see TV commercials where, for example, Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen touts Romney's "vision to restore the country's national security." Really? We've lost national security under the administration that killed Osama bin Laden and wiped our most of al-Qaida?
In the same ad, Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart says we should vote for Romney because he "believes in us." Really? And his lack of compassion even for young undocumented immigrants seeking to complete their education and his pledge to veto the DREAM Act is going to make Latinos believe in him?
Gingrich's Latino political operatives are no better. "It is clear to us that you have not provided a real solution on behalf of the 12-plus million immigrants who live in the shadows of the American communities," some of them charged in a very hypocritical open letter to Romney.
With remarkable impudence, they claim that, "Newt Gingrich is the only candidate that has offered a humane approach to our immigration problem."
Really? Gingrich proposes to create a guest worker program "outsourced to American Express or Visa or MasterCard," and to establish "something like a World War II Selective Service Board" to determine which undocumented immigrants are allowed to stay here. Yet instead of questioning the sanity of these ridiculous ideas, his Latino political hacks try to sell it as "humane." It's ludicrous!
Gingrich's proposal would create a permanent underclass of legal, non-citizens. It is probably unconstitutional and not likely to be passed by Congress. Yet his Latino operatives falsely claim that Gingrich "proposes to secure the border, deport criminals, and recognize the remainder through temporary work permits and through establishing legal status for those with American sponsorship and deep ties to their communities."
Really? He is willing to "recognize the remainder"? This is downright dishonest. If fact, Gingrich's proposal only applies to undocumented immigrants who have been here 25 years, which is probably less than a million people and leaves the country with at least another 10 million undocumented immigrants and a broken immigration system.
According to polling and a memo released by President Barack Obama's campaign, Republicans have "sealed the political fate of their party with the Hispanic electorate" because of their "extreme rhetoric on immigration." The memo notes that Obama could win the Hispanic vote by a bigger margin than ever because, "The speeches and policy statements of both Romney and Gingrich on issues like the economy, the creation of jobs, health care, public education, housing, programs for seniors, and immigration are deeply unpopular with most Hispanics."
Yet because he has the least draconian immigration proposal, Gingrich had the gall to call Romney "anti-immigrant" in a Spanish-language radio commercial in Florida last week.
Of course, Romney is indeed anti-immigrant. He has earned that label by progressively hardening his position against undocumented immigrants in the past few months.
But wait: Sen. Marco Rubio disagrees. "The truth is that neither of these two men is anti-immigrant," Rubio told The Miami Herald. "Both are pro-legal immigration and both have positive messages that play well in the Hispanic community." Really? On what planet?
Here's another Hispanic Republican selling snake oil. "This kind of language is more than just unfortunate," Rubio said. "It's inaccurate, inflammatory, and doesn't belong in this campaign."
You have to wonder why Rubio is not so bothered by the "inaccurate" and "inflammatory" language constantly used by Republicans against his own people. Does GOP support for racial profiling and immigrant bashing belong in this campaign?
If he gets nominated to be the GOP vice president, in a desperate Republican attempt to appeal to the same Latino voters they have harassed and insulted for so long, Rubio may yet become the biggest snake oil peddler of them all.
To find out more about Miguel Perez and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.