LatinaLista: Texas is home to half a million Latino residents — 9,460,921, according to the U.S. Census. In a state where Latino students comprise the majority in the public schools, more small businesses are started by Latinos and Latinas and more and more Latinos are running for public office and going to college, it doesn’t make sense for Texas politicians to revisit 2008 and 2010 campaign tactics of using illegal immigration as a way to discredit their opponents.
The last time this tactic was used — described by someone as a “dog whistle for racists” — most Latino voters felt very insulted and offended because how can anyone denigrate Latino immigrants without implicating the rest of us?
Yet, unbelievably, in what has become a very nasty senate race in Texas, that is exactly what has happened — otra vez.
Texas’ Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst is campaigning to win the seat of Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison. Though he’s considered the frontrunner, he’s having to sweat it out a little because of one opponent named Ted Cruz. Cruz is Cuban American, a former Solicitor General of Texas, and as staunch a Republican as his opponent.
In fact, there is no love lost between Cruz and Texas’ Democrat Latinos. For a lot of Latino Democrats, Cruz makes Marco Rubio look like a moderate. But if Dewhurst has his way, Texas voters will see Cruz as leaning far, far to the left.
In a new radio ad, Dewhurst accuses Cruz of favoring amnesty for undocumented immigrants. The ad claims this is true because “Cruz is a board member for two groups that it says favors amnesty, the Hispanic Alliance for Prosperity Institute and the Hispanic Leadership Fund. It also says Cruz is supported by a Washington group that backs forgiveness of illegal migration.”
Of course, Cruz, being the staunch Republican that he is, is fighting back and reiterating that he is in align with the party’s platform towards the whole amnesty issue and does not favor amnesty. There’s no reason not to believe him. Even a Rice University political scientist said the Senate front-runner’s radio ad trying to link Cruz in support of amnesty has a “flimsy factual basis.” The professor considered it a desperate ploy by Dewhurst to solidify his lead.
The fact that it doesn’t bother Dewhurst that he’s using Latino immigrants as a scare tactic to get votes away from Cruz, the only Latino opponent in the race, is both disgusting and offensive. It shows an utter lack of sensitivity and respect to the half a million Latino residents of the Lone Star State, whom he would represent in DC if he won.
By accusing Cruz as favoring amnesty, Dewhurst paints an unfair picture of Latinos — that we all share the same opinions and there’s no differences among us. While I would love for Cruz to see the logic of putting 11 million people on a path to citizenship, I have to defend his right to his own opinion. It doesn’t make him less of a Latino because of it. But by saying that Cruz favors amnesty, Dewhurst is planting that seed of suspicion in the minds of non-Latino Texas voters that future Latino politicians will be unelectable for national office because of their heritage.
However, unlike in the past when Latino voters — from both sides of the aisle — could only shake their heads and feel voiceless and powerless as politicians made scapegoats of Latinos to arouse negativity in a campaign, there is something that can be done now.
After all, this is the social media age — a time when Latinos can make their voices heard more than just at the polls.