11.07.2008

El Diario: Political blowback

Attacking immigrants is just not good politics. Some politicians learned this the hard way. In this election cycle, several politicians campaigned on anti-immigrant platforms—and lost. The most outrageous was Congressman Tom Tancredo, who ran for the Republican nomination for president. Tancredo is in favor of ending legal immigration.

Other candidates—namely Rudy Giuliani and Mitt Romney—tried to outdo Tancredo. But their sparring during the primary debates did not take them to the top of the Republican ticket. And ultimately, Republican nominee John McCain, by backstepping on immigration reform, failed to move the vast majority Latino voters. Latin American immigrants are 40 percent of the Hispanic electorate. The vast majority of Latinos support a path to legalization for undocumented immigrants.

The scapegoating of immigrants had its consequences locally. Republican incumbents like State Senator Serphin Maltese were not helped by their party’s shortsighted platform on immigration and the economy. And without a disastrous party, Maltese alone would have been counting his days in Queens, the borough with the largest immigrant population. Maltese voted against a state measure allowing non citizen students to pay the same rate of in-state tuition as native students.

But one of the most significant defeats in the northeast was of Mayor Lou Barletta of Hazleton, PA. Barletta appeared on the national radar when he pushed through a harsh anti-immigrant ordinance that was thrown out in a legal battle. With the admiration of enforcement-only zealots, Barletta ran for Congress. He lost on Tuesday.

Click here and here for more on Barletta; here for more on Tancredo; and here for why Maltese's opponent--Senator-elect Joseph Addabbo--was the better choice for Latinos and immigrants of Queens .
Undoubtedly, some politicians will resort to another fear-based campaign to rile up voters. But the tide of blaming immigrants may have run its course.

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