New RNC Chairman, Michael Steele declared in his acceptance speech that it’s “time for something completely different.” Yet when it comes to immigration, Steele is side-stepping pragmatic politics and choosing to stick with the same hard-line position that soured Latino and immigrant voters and contributed to the GOP’s devastating losses this past election year.
When pressed by Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace, who asked Steele if the GOP needs to change its position on immigration reform and reach out to Hispanics and let them know that they have a home in the Republican Party, Steele replied:
“No. Well, I think the GOP’s position on immigration is very much the position of many, many Hispanics who are in this country…The GOP’s position is secure our borders first. Let us know and let us make sure the American people know that we’ve taken care of the important business of dealing with illegal immigration into this country.”
The rest of the interviewed continued:
WALLACE: So no change in the position of the party?
STEELE: No change in the position on the party on that…How we messaged that is where we messed up the last time. We were pegged as being insensitive, anti-immigrant, and nothing could be further from the truth, because you talk to those leaders in the Hispanic community, they will tell you the same thing.
Though Steele is right in pointing out that the GOP’s anti-immigrant rhetoric distanced key immigrant and Latino voters, the Republican Party’s enforcement-only approach that has separated hundreds of families and economically crushed communities across the country also had a lot to do with the GOP’s devastating defeat. Even Sarah Palin and John McCain cited the Latino vote as a major reason for the GOP’s loss.
Meanwhile, Republican leaders from Karl Rove to Mel Martinez to Colin Powell are calling on their party to reach out to Latinos and immigrants with an inclusive message that embraces fair and rational solutions to our country’s immigration woes. These public figures understand that most voters support comprehensive immigration reform and that recapturing the hearts and minds of Latino and immigrant voters isn’t just about talking the talk, it’s about walking the walk and advancing practical solutions that benefit the country overall.
As Steele embarks on rebuilding his party, he should not only stand up to immigrant bashing within his party, but also help his party embrace the idea that the best way to reduce undocumented immigration and strengthen the rule of law is by replacing chaos and exploitation with the control and regulation of an orderly system. Repackaging the same policy with softer rhetoric and handing it back to Latino and immigrant voters simply isn’t enough to dig the Republican party out of its hole nor will it do anything to move our country forward.