The Power of Dinero and Demographics

By Miguel Perez

November 26, 2013 5 min read

Only two months ago, this column suggested the pro-immigrant movement was very myopic and planned only for the next battle in Congress instead of who gets sent to Congress on Election Day.

"Where are the pro-immigrant troops lining up to take on the GOP demagogues who spew xenophobia?" I asked. "Where is the effort to make the House of Representatives a little more immigrant-friendly?"

The headline noted that in order "To Reform Immigration," we would have to "Depose the Xenophobes."

Yet today — sooner than I expected — I'm happy to report that many other people have finally come to the same sobering conclusion: If you have a large number of Hispanic constituents and continue to oppose immigration reform, you give us no choice; we will make you pay for it at the ballot box.

In just the last two months, we have seen the emergence of a new political advocacy organization that is "planning to spend as much as $20 million on campaigns targeting members of Congress who have sizable Latino communities in their districts but oppose comprehensive immigration reform," according to the Washington Post.

The new group, an offspring of a network of Latino donors who raised funds for President Barack Obama's reelection, is appropriately called "The Latino Victory Project," and is already targeting House Republicans who represent districts where Latino voters could boot the hardliners out of office.

Its members have reportedly vowed to spend $1-2 million in campaigns in each of the targeted districts to persuade these lawmakers to either support immigration reform this year or face an intensive media campaign against them when they run for reelection next year.

Now we're talking!

And it gets better. This group is part of a larger coalition of immigrant rights advocates, unions, clerics, law enforcement officials and business leaders, who have finally come to realize hardball is the only game hardliners know how to play.

This coalition created the "Cost of Inaction" voter education and outreach campaign, which specifically targets nine Republicans who have growing immigrant electorates and could suffer a backlash for having alienated immigrants in the past.

Mind you, they may not be going after the best-known immigrant bashers. Regardless of how obnoxious they may be, there is no sense wasting time trying to defeat demagogues from flaming-red, gerrymandered districts where Republican incumbents only fear challenges from the right in GOP primaries.

They are wisely going after Republicans who can be defeated, in districts where the Latino vote could make a difference. They are not pursuing prominent immigrant bashers like Rep. Steve King in Iowa, but are after many other extremists who share King's draconian ideas, including Reps. Buck McKeon, R-Calif.; Gary Miller, R-Calif.; Mike Coffman, R-Colo.; Scott Tipton, R-Colo.; Daniel Webster, R-Fla.; Steve Pearce, R-N.M.; and Joe Heck, R-Nev.

It makes a lot of sense!

Amazingly, some of the targeted Republicans are already trying to inoculate themselves by modifying their former positions. Two of them — Reps. Jeff Denham, R-Calif., and David Valadao, R-Calif. — actually came out in support of H.R. 15, a House comprehensive reform bill resembling one that passed the Senate in June and included a legalization program for the 11 million undocumented immigrants already living in the U.S.

Unfortunately, nowadays, this is the American way of winning political fights. When you threaten them with "dinero" and demographics, politicians are able to flip-flop abruptly and even find compassion for immigrants they never knew they had!

Luckily, immigrant rights advocates are no longer falling for cheap lip-service and empty rhetoric. They know that if H.R. 15 were allowed to come for a vote on the floor of the House, it would pass. And they are calling on Denham, Valadao and other Republicans, who suddenly claim to be our amigos, to pressure House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, to allow that vote to take place.

Some Republicans have said they would show Boehner "how much support there is for full reform," meaning we now have Republicans calling on other Republicans to release the chocking grip the GOP has had on the immigrant community for so long. That's progress!

Two months ago, I called for "a national campaign to rid the country of elected xenophobia demagogues." I knew the power of dinero and demographics could make some Republicans suddenly become our best friends. But I never expected to see it this soon, or that it would be so effective!

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.

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