Immigration

The Latest Crack in Our Broken Immigration System

Undocumented immigrants who arrive as children may be well into their 40s before they get a green card.

— by  

Diana_Torres-small-color-headshotIn a bustling room at the Third Presbyterian Church in Albuquerque, New Mexico a group of white and Latino parishioners gathered for a workshop on immigration. They wanted to learn more about the issue.

Julio Alvarez, a Mexican immigrant, was there to answer their questions. “Why can’t immigrants just wait in line and move here legally? Isn’t there a process to do that?” one parishioner asked. “The truth is,” Alvarez replied, “standing in line is a myth for the majority of us.”

Stone Cold Immigrants, an OtherWords cartoon by Khalil Bendib

Alvarez’s personal experience with our nation’s immigration system illustrates this harsh reality.

Mexico’s weak economy pushed Alvarez out of his country in 1996. “When I decided to immigrate to Albuquerque, New Mexico I had 5 pesos — or less than a dollar — in my pocket and a family to feed,” he recounts.

Upon his arrival, Alvarez’s U.S.-citizen brother sponsored his petition for U.S. residency. As allowed by federal law, he included his wife, Myrna, and their school-age son, Edgar, in his application. He hoped that all of them could eventually reside in the United States legally.

That was 16 years ago.

Since then, Alvarez has established a successful automotive repair shop, bought a home, and saved enough money to send his child to college. But our broken immigration system has left him standing in that immigration “line.” And a recent Supreme Court decision just made things worse.

It takes the Citizenship and Immigration Services agency an average of seven years to grant immigrants green cards. Due to the structure of the immigration system that imposes a per-country cap, the wait now lasts more than two decades for Mexican immigrants.

As long as the petitioners’ dependent children don’t come of age during that period, they remain eligible for green cards. If those children turn 21 before the family reaches the front of that proverbial line, a Supreme Court majority recently ruled, those young immigrants “age out.” They lose their place in the immigration line where they may have stood for most of their young lives.

That’s a brutal reality for the Alvarez family.

Julio Alvarez has waited 16 years for his green card. He probably needs to wait two more years — or even longer. Meanwhile, Edgar will turn 21 and lose his place in the line he has waited on for more than half his life.

If Edgar, an engineering student at the University of New Mexico, applies for his own green card, he’ll be in his 40s before he gets to the front of the line. Tens of thousands of people face this Orwellian predicament.

The new ruling makes congressional action even more urgent. But House Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s stunning defeat to David Brat in his recent primary means that the already stagnated immigration reform debate may hit a dead end on Capitol Hill. According to conventional wisdom that ignores the prevailing views in that Virginia House district, anti-immigrant fervor helped Cantor’s tea party challenger pull off a surprise win against a candidate who outspent him 40:1.

This is bad news for Edgar Alvarez, who will turn 21 later this year.

After he reaches that milestone and graduates college, he may be forced to move to Mexico, a country he barely knows.

If Edgar wants to stay here he has limited options: He can marry a U.S. citizen or resident. Or he can find an employer to sponsor his green card. Few employers make this commitment because it’s a costly and time-consuming process.

If Edgar can’t find a path to shedding his undocumented status, his New Mexican community will feel the loss. The young man engages in local politics and campus life. He pays taxes, mentors younger boys who are aspiring engineers, and works as a public health advocate.

How can the United States turn its back on the more than 560,000 talented, young adults that are in a situation similar to his?

Our nation can certainly do better than that.


Diana Anahi Torres-Valverde is the New Mexico Fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies in Washington, DC. The author changed the name of the church and the names of the members of the “Alvarez family” in this commentary at their request. IPS-dc.org
Distributed via OtherWords (OtherWords.org)

The Economic Costs of Inaction on Immigration Reform

Last June, the Senate passed a bipartisan immigration reform bill that would grow our economy and shrink the deficit. But without action from the House to move forward in the last year, our country is losing out on these economic gains.

What’s Next for Congress

The end of the government shutdown means a return to a somewhat normal schedule as party leaders work toward a fiscal agreement in the next two months.  There’s lots to do. Members have agreed to try again to find a deal on 2014 spending levels. Democrats are hinting that they may seek new revenues, something Republicans will reject. Republicans will likely try again to reform federal entitlement programs, efforts Democrats have resisted before.

But those huge problems are now weeks away, giving Congress a few weeks to take a breather. This will be one of those weeks — the Senate is out, and the House has set up an agenda of bipartisan bills for the week:

The President’s Priorities 

Last week, President Obama outlined his priorities for the rest of the year:

“There are things that we know will help strengthen our economy that we could get done before this year is out. We still need to pass a law to fix our broken immigration system. We still need to pass a farm bill. And with the shutdown behind us and budget committees forming, we now have an opportunity to focus on a sensible budget that is responsible, that is fair, and that helps hardworking people all across this country.”

We’d like to spotlight these issues, and some of the bills that have already been introduced by Congress:

Immigration

In January 2013, a bipartisan group of Senators proposed a comprehensive set of immigration reform principles, which include giving immigrants a path to citizenship, strengthening border security, and reforming our legal immigration system to reunite families and strengthen our economy while protecting American workers. This turned into a Comprehensive Immigration Reform Bill (S 744), which was passed by the Senate in June — and had the support of the President. The House has yet to take up immigration reform, but two comprehensive bills have been introduced:

  • Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act (HR 15): a comprehensive immigration reform bill. This legislation is based on the Senate’s bipartisan immigration bill (S 744). It eliminates the border security language of the Senate-passed bill and replaces it with the bipartisan border security bill, Border Security Results Act (HR 1417).
  • CIR ASAP Act (HR 3163): To provide for comprehensive immigration reform. Increases the number of Customs and Border Protection Officers by not fewer than 5,000 and does not require additional fencing; immigrants who can establish presence in the US on the day of introduction will be eligible for conditional immigrant visa; Those who qualify would receive a conditional non-immigrant visa which is valid for six years and will be able to naturalize under current law (up to 5 years), making the total path to citizenship about an 11-year wait.

The Farm Bill

The House and Senate haven’t been able to agree on a farm bill — and agriculture programs expired on Oct. 1. The House had passed a bill, the Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management (FARRM) Act (HR 2642), which included $39 billion in cuts to food stamps. The Senate’s version (S 954) had $4 billion in cuts to food stamps. On Oct. 12, the House named Members to negotiate with the Senate on the farm bill — and plans to meet soon reconcile differences.

A Federal Budget

As part of the agreement that re-opened the government and raised the debt ceiling, the House and Senate will establish a budget conference committee to come up with a long-term budget plan for tax and spending policies over the next decade. Specifically, the legislation instructs House and Senate leaders to select Members for the committee who “have open minds willing to consider every option, no matter how painful to their own political party,” according to Sen. Harry Reid. Their deadline is Dec. 13, 2013.

Here are some bills related to the federal budget:

  • Consensus Balanced Budget Amendment (SJRes 7): A joint resolution proposing an amendment to the Constitution of the United States relative to balancing the budget; requires the President to submit to Congress a balanced budget that limits outlays to 18 percent of GDP; establishes a new super-majority requirement for net tax and rate increases and for an increase in the debt limit.
  • Business Cycle Balanced Budget Amendment (HJRes 24): Proposing a balanced budget amendment to the US Constitution.
  • HJRes 4: Under this Constitutional amendment, the President must submit, and Congress must pass, an annual budget that is balanced.
  • Business Cycle Balanced Budget Amendment (HR 233): to provide for an orderly process by which the debt ceiling is increased. Would allow Treasury to pay debts unless a super-majority in Congress acts to stop them.
  • Biennial Budgeting and Appropriations Act (S 554): to provide for a biennial budget process and a biennial appropriations process and to enhance oversight and the performance of the Federal Government.
  • End Government Shutdowns Act (S 29): to provide for automatic continuing resolutions.

What Makes Our Economy Grow?

Well, it’s certainly NOT what deadbeats Sen. Dean Heller and Rep. Mark Amodei have to offer. Both voted yesterday to let the U.S. default on it’s debts, wreak havoc on the world economy and put the world reserve currency status of the U.S. dollar at risk.  But, despite their NAY votes, the bill passed and the government is once again open to conduct the people’s business, albeit temporarily yet again.  And while yet another committee works on trying to get the GOP to compromise on a workable budget, it’s time that we focus on Immigration Reform and begin to grow our economy.

My Thoughts on the Treaty of Guadalupe Hildalgo

— by Rich Dunn, NVRDC 2nd Vice Chair

In 1836 Texas declared independence from Mexico, primarily over the issue of slavery, which Mexico had abolished in 1829. Mexico never relinquished sovereignty over Texas, and since slavery was an issue in the United States as well, it wasn’t until 1845 that a Southern president, John Tyler, formally annexed Texas as a slave state, precipitating the Mexican-American War of 1846-1847.

American forces quickly occupied 525,000 square miles of Mexican territories that are now California, Arizona, Nevada, Utah, and the western parts of Wyoming, Colorado and New Mexico as an assertion of its “manifest destiny” to become a continental nation. What was left of Mexico was then invaded from several directions, and after a year and a half of war, Mexican forces were forced to surrender.

Under terms of the 1848 Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, Mexico relinquished sovereignty over Texas and ceded the occupied 525,000 square miles in exchange for $15 million (4.5¢ an acre / $1.20 an acre in today’s money) and some important political concessions.

Article 8 of the treaty states that “Mexicans now established in territories previously belonging to Mexico … shall be free to continue where they now reside” and automatically become full American citizens one year from the exchange of ratifications, so in the context of Article 8, “now” meant May 30, 1949.

Article 9, which was rewritten by the US Senate during the ratification process, redefines “now” as an indefinite “proper time” in the future. It also states that “in the mean time” they “shall be maintained and protected in the free enjoyment of their liberty and property, and secured in the free exercise of their religion without restriction.” As congress has yet to decide that the “proper time” for full citizenship has arrived, “in the mean time” means now [2013] and Mexican-born residents of Nevada and other western states still have treaty rights to live and work here, with or without a green card.

Isn’t it time our country followed the law and showed some respect for the people we agreed to share the west with all those years ago? The treaty has no document requirements, so can we please stop calling our Mexican friends and neighbors “undocumented”? And since the treaty clearly recognizes the right of Mexicans to be here, isn’t it time we stopped calling them “aliens”?

It’s also worth looking at what has happened in US-Mexican relations in the decades since the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo took effect 165 years ago.

Believing that the treaty meant what it said, the Census Bureau counted Mexican-born residents of the west as US nationals in every census from 1850 to 1920. Only since 1930 have they been treated as foreigners.

The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo was in effect over 40 years before a joint survey team determined exactly where the border actually was, and then only to insure that the US Navy had access to San Diego harbor.

After immigration from Europe and Asia was almost completely shut down in the 1920′s, Mexican workers were actively recruited to relieve the resultant labor shortage.

When the Border Patrol was established in 1924, only ten agents were assigned to watch the entire southern border out of a single office in El Paso, Texas. And they were looking for illegal Chinese immigrants, not Mexicans.

There weren’t even any fences along the southern border until 1949, and then they were only put up to protect US ranchers from cattle infected with hoof and mouth disease.

Though there were mass deportations of questionable legality during the economic depression of the 1930′s, the Bracero program once again recruited Mexican workers to fill labor shortages in the 1940′s, 50′s and 60′s.

Until 1965, there were no immigration quotas for Mexicans, yet only in the past 50 years have “illegal” workers from Mexico been considered fair game for exploitation that would otherwise be considered illegal, and targeted for detention and summary deportation that make a mockery of due process and basic human rights.

Awareness of the needless deaths, dislocations and disruptions of family life resulting from these draconian measures have become an increasingly heavy burden on America’s collective conscience, so the time has come for all of us to give serious thought to our moral and legal obligations stemming from Articles 8 and 9 of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, which is both an unfulfilled promise and the law of the land.

Amodei’s One And Only Public Meeting — an Immigration ‘Listening Session’ in just Reno

The month of August is a time when Congress is in recess and members are supposed to be back in their home districts meeting with constituents.  While other Representatives have been holding townhall meetings throughout their district, Amodei’s main priority has been meeting with his Corporate business partners to ferret out their needs, not with listening to the concerns of the District’s voting public.

I’ve called his offices, both in Reno and in Washington DC five different times, giving them my email address and phone number as well as my home address, and asking for a copy of his townhall schedule.   The absolute silence has been deafening.  Not a call, not an email, not a letter via the USPS — then today, in a check of his web site, I noticed a press release announcing ONE “listening session” he plans to hold in CD2, in RENO, just ONE and just in RENO and for just an hour and a half.  I don’t know about you, but I find that insulting and disingenuous representation.  CD2 is way larger than just RENO.  It’s clear that if we, as voting citizens, want some representation from RURAL CD2, we need to organize, support and elect someone willing to do just that.  Rep. Amodei clearly disdains representing “people” and thinks his voting constituency is the corporate business community.

During the 5-week recess, Rep. Amodei schedules just one 1-1/2 hour “listening session” with actual voters? You have to be kidding me!!!  We, the voters, are worth more than an hour and a half of Rep. Amodei’s time and there are more issues we, his constituents, are concerned about other than just Immigration Reform.   It’s time we show him that we’ve had enough of his voting record and lack of effective representation by actively working to replace him next November.


Friday August 16, 2013: FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Brian Baluta, 202-225-6155

RENO, Nev. – Congressman Mark Amodei (NV-2) today announced that he will hold an immigration listening session in Reno on Friday, August 23, from 10:30 a.m. to noon, in the Washoe County Commission Chamber, Building A, 1001 E. 9th Street, Reno, NV 89512.

“Immigration reform and border security are complex, emotional debates, with passionate beliefs on all sides,” said Amodei. “Some view the issue as one of humaneness. Many see it from a perspective of fairness. And still others approach immigration on the basis of practicality. We are a nation of immigrants. My Irish and Italian forebears made their way to Nevada in search of a better life. We are also a nation of laws with the right to control our borders. While I don’t think any of those perspectives are mutually exclusive, it seems the one thing all sides can consistently agree on is that our immigration system, as presently constituted, is not working.”

Amodei will take questions and comments from constituents during the listening session and his staff will be on hand to help ensure that those in attendance who are unable to ask a question during the listening session can get follow up responses from Amodei.

For more information, please contact Amodei’s Reno office at (775) 686-5760.

# # #

PARA PUBLICACION INMEDIATA                                              Contacto:        Brian Baluta, 202-225-6155

16 de agosto 2013

Amodei atenderá ‘sesión de escucha’ sobre inmigración en Reno

RENO, Nev. – El Congresista Mark Amodei (NV-2) anunció hoy que llevará a cabo una “sesión de escucha” sobre inmigración en Reno el viernes 23 de agosto, desde las 10:30 am hasta el mediodía, en la Sala de la Comisión del Condado de Washoe, Edificio A, 1001 E. 9th Street, Reno, NV 89512.

“La reforma de inmigración y la seguridad fronteriza son debates complejos y emocionales, con las creencias apasionadas por todos lados,” dijo Amodei. “Algunos ven el problema como uno de humanidad. Muchos lo ven desde una perspectiva de igualdad. Y otros de la perspectiva de la practicidad. Somos una nación de inmigrantes. Mis antepasados irlandeses e italianos se dirigieron a Nevada en busca de una vida mejor. También somos una nación de leyes con el derecho de controlar nuestras fronteras. Aunque no creo que ninguna de esas perspectivas son mutuamente excluyentes, parece que la única cosa que todos los lados se ponen de acuerdo es en que constantemente nuestro sistema de inmigración, como está constituido actualmente, no está funcionando.”

Amodei tomará las preguntas y comentarios de los constituyentes durante la sesión de escucha y su personal estará a a su disposición para ayudar a asegurar que los asistentes que no pueden hacer una pregunta durante la “sesión de escucha” puedan obtener un seguimiento de Amodei.

Para obtener más información, por favor comuníquese con la oficina de Reno Amodei al (775) 686 5760

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Make a call in support of real immigration reform

Please make a call to Representative Mark Amodei and ask him to say he would support a discharge petition that would allow an up-or-down vote on a meaningful immigration reform bill with a viable pathway to citizenship for millions of aspiring Americans.

Click below for a sample script and the number to call:

Take action now ►

Take action for real immigration reform.

When Congress returns, they’ll have 3 weeks before the current continuing resolution expires and either a NEW budget or a NEW continuing resolution will need to be negotiated and passed, else we’ll be facing a government shutdown.  Three weeks!  That means any meaningful efforts to pass a House-generated Immigration Reform bill will take a back seat to nowhere.  But, that doesn’t have to happen, the Senate has already passed an immigration reform bill  with an overwhelming majority of 68 Senators.  The House doesn’t need to create a whole new immigration bill.  The Senate’s approved bill is waiting at the desk in the House for action and the Speaker Boehner is refusing to put the bill up for a vote in the House. The Senate’s bill is far from perfect, but it does advance family reunification, protect the rights of workers, and, most important, provides a viable path to citizenship for millions of aspiring Americans.

But this immigration bill, which holds millions of lives in its balance, is far from a done deal. We have heard from our friends in Washington that there are more than enough votes in the House to pass the Senate bill on immigration reform. But, not surprisingly, the House Republican leadership has been resorting to its usual grandstanding and political obstruction in an effort to kill immigration reform.1

We need your help to turn up the pressure on Representative Rep. Amodei. A parliamentary tactic called a "discharge petition" could bring an immigration bill to the floor of the House for a vote, even if Speaker Boehner continues to block action on immigration reform. If enough representatives say they would sign a discharge petition, then one of our allies in the House could even potentially introduce the original Senate Judiciary Committee bill on the floor, bringing back a better bill draft that doesn’t include the unnecessary, harmful and expensive provisions for excessive border-enforcement measures.

Will you call Rep. Amodei and urge him to say he would support a discharge petition that would allow an up-or-down vote on a meaningful immigration reform bill with a viable pathway to citizenship for millions of aspiring Americans? Click here for a sample script and the number to call.

We cannot let obstructionist politicians stall the momentum for real immigration reform by letting it die a slow death in Congress.

The time is now for real immigration reform that keeps families together, protects immigrants from violence and discrimination, and provides immigrants who are living in America and contributing to our society a roadmap to citizenship. Instead of focusing on an inhumane, costly and dysfunctional "enforcement" strategy, it’s time to switch to an approach that is both more humane and that makes more economic sense.2

The media has already been taking note of the momentum for a discharge petition to force a vote on a bill with pathway to citizenship on the House floor.3

Call Rep. Amodei: Tell him to say he would support a discharge petition that would allow an up-or-down vote on a meaningful immigration reform bill with a viable pathway to citizenship for millions of aspiring Americans. Click here for a sample script and the number to call.

Thank you for fighting for the rights of immigrants.

Murshed Zaheed, Deputy Political Director
CREDO Action from Working Assets

Click below for a sample script and the number to call:

Take action now ►

1. Markos Moulitsas, "What the hell are House Republicans doing with immigration?," DailyKos.com, August 5, 2013.
2. Mahwish Khan, "When Immigration Enforcement Equals Inhumane Enforcement," America’s Voice, July 20, 2012, and Marshall Fitz, Gebe Martinez, and Madura Wijewardena, "The Costs of Mass Deportation," Center for American Progress, March 19, 2010.
3. Steve Benen, "Immigration reform’s odds improve — a little," The Maddow Blog, August 9, 2013.

State-by-State Reports: The Economic Benefits of Fixing Our Broken Immigration System

— by Megan Slack, August 01, 2013

America has always been a nation of immigrants, and throughout the nation’s history, immigrants from around the globe have kept our workforce vibrant, our businesses on the cutting edge, and helped to build the greatest economic engine in the world. But our nation’s immigration system is broken and has not kept pace with changing times. Today, too many employers game the system by hiring undocumented workers and there are 11 million people living and working in the shadow economy. Neither is good for the U.S. economy or American  families.

Commonsense immigration reform will strengthen the U.S. economy and create jobs. Independent studies affirm that commonsense immigration reform will increase economic growth by adding more high-demand workers to the labor force, increasing capital investment and overall productivity, and leading to greater numbers of entrepreneurs starting companies in the U.S.

Economists, business leaders, and American workers agree –  and it’s why a bipartisan, diverse coalition of stakeholders have come together to urge Congress to act now to fix the broken immigration system in a way that requires responsibility from everyone —both from unauthorized workers and from those who hire them—and guarantees that everyone is playing by the same rules. The Senate recently passed a bipartisan, commonsense immigration reform bill would do just that – and it’s time for the House of Representations to join them in taking action to make sure that commonsense immigration reform becomes a reality as soon as possible.

In addition to giving a significant boost to our national economy, commonsense immigration reform will also generate important economic benefits in each state, from increasing workers’ wages and generating new tax revenue to strengthening the local industries that are the backbone of states’ economies. The new state by state reports below detail how just how immigration reform would strengthen the economy and create jobs all regions of our country.

We must take advantage of this historic opportunity to fix our broken immigration system in a comprehensive way. At stake is a stronger, more dynamic, and faster growing economy that will foster job creation, higher productivity and wages, and entrepreneurship.

STATE REPORTS

Alabama Alaska Arizona Arkansas
California Colorado Connecticut Delaware
Florida Georgia Hawaii  
Idaho Illinois Indiana Iowa
Kansas Kentucky Louisiana Maine
Maryland Massachusetts Michigan Minnesota
Mississippi Missouri Montana Nebraska
Nevada New Hampshire New Jersey New Mexico
New York North Carolina North Dakota Ohio
Oklahoma Oregon Pennsylvania Rhode Island
South Carolina South Dakota Tennessee Texas
Utah Vermont Virginia Washington
West Virginia Wisconsin Wyoming  

Reprinted from The White House Blog.  For more information:

Tell House Leadership: Remove Steve King from immigration subcommittee

Rep Steve King, R-IA

Remove Rep. Steve King from his seat on the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration Policy and Border Security now. His hateful characterization of immigrants as criminal drug smugglers and his continued extremism don’t reflect the views of a majority of Americans — nor his constituents in Iowa. It’s time to show your commitment to real immigration reform by removing him from his position.
Sign-the-Petition
Why is this important?

Wildly irresponsible and hateful comments are nothing new for Rep. Steve King of Iowa’s 4th District, who has repeatedly pushed legislation against the children he calls “anchor babies.” But recently, he may have hit a new low.

In an interview with Newsmax, King slandered young immigrants who would be eligible for citizenship under the DREAM Act stating that “For everyone who’s a valedictorian, there’s another 100 out there that weigh 130 pounds and they’ve got calves the size of cantaloupes because they’re hauling 75 pounds of marijuana across the desert.”

Even House Speaker John Boehner responded by suggesting King’s comments were out of bounds, stating “There can be honest disagreements about policy without using hateful language. Everyone needs to remember that.” And Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., suggested on Tuesday that “we as a nation should allow this group of young people to stay in the U.S. legally.”

Yet King has shown no remorse and refused to back down. In an interview with Radio Iowa’s O. Kay Henderson on July 24th, King said, “It’s not something that I’m making up. This is real,” and responded to critics by saying “it’s enough for anybody to be offended these days. They apparently don’t have to use their brain.”

It’s time for House leadership to take stronger action against King and distance themselves from his hateful rhetoric.

As a member of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration Policy and Border Security, King’s disgusting comments on immigrants have been highlighted by the media. And despite the fact that his views are completely outside the views of mainstream Iowans, he’s been given a national soapbox to distort our views. The fact that House leadership have allowed King to keep his position send the message that they’re not actually interested in real immigration reform.

But if Iowans and others from across the country stand-up and demand that House leadership throw King out of his seat on a major immigration subcommittee, we can hold him, and house leadership, accountable. GOP leaders know that showing leadership on immigration reform is extremely important to the future of their party. We can demand they do more than just give lip service to DREAMers and voters by kicking King off his immigration subcommittee seat now.

Sign this petition and demand house leaders show their commitment to real immigration reform by telling extremist Tea Party congressman Steve King that his hate speech has no place on the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration and Border Security now.

Sign-the-Petition

REFERENCES:

Our Star-Spangled Banner Waves for All of Us

The racist attacks on a young Mexican-American prodigy who sang the National Anthem didn’t occur in a vacuum.
By 

Raul A. ReyesBefore game three of the recent NBA Finals in San Antonio, Sebastien de la Cruz stepped up to the microphone and belted out the National Anthem. Decked out in his mariachi suit, the 11-year-old “America’s Got Talent” alum wowed the crowd with his singing.

On social media, racism reared its head. “This lil Mexican snuck into the country like 4 hours ago now he is singing the anthem,” read a tweet that formed part of an online river of hate. “This kid is Mexican why is he singing the national anthem,” tweeted another commenter, adding the hashtag #gohome.

sebastien-delacruz-reyesIt’s sad that a child should become the target of such ugly, anti-immigrant sentiment. However, these views didn’t arise in a vacuum. The fact is that Republican lawmakers have become accustomed to demonizing immigrants, to the detriment of our civil discourse and to their own party. Meanwhile, our nation continues to grow more diverse, putting the GOP out of step with a changing America.

After the 2012 presidential election, in which Latino voters overwhelmingly backed Barack Obama, the smart approach for the GOP would have been to adopt a more inclusive tone towards Latinos in particular and immigrants in general. That’s not what happened.

In May, Representative Don Young (R-AK) used the term “wetbacks” in a radio interview. Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL) routinely refers to undocumented people by the pejorative term “illegals.” Recently, Representative Steve King (R-IA) complained about the “illegal aliens” who “invaded” his office, in reference to the young, undocumented immigrants who organized a protest there.

The young people were protesting in King’s office because he sponsored a bill to defund the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which allows people brought to the U.S. illegally as children to adjust their status. King and his Republican colleagues in the House of Representatives passed the anti-DACA measure knowing full well it has zero chance of becoming law.

Why? Because they have no qualms about being seen as openly hostile to immigrants.  Moreover, House Republicans remain opposed to comprehensive immigration reform.

These narrow views put them outside of the political mainstream. A recent New York Times poll found that 83 percent of Americans support comprehensive reform, including a path to citizenship for the undocumented. The anti-immigrant crowd is also bringing down their party. The research firm Latino Decisions has found that when Republican politicians speak negatively about immigrants, it doesn’t only reflect poorly on them, it gives Hispanic voters a negative view of the Republican Party as well.

As Republican lawmakers continue with this rhetoric, our country is undergoing a demographic shift. The U.S. Census Bureau reports that for the first time, the number of racial and ethnic minority babies being born has passed that of white babies. The District of Columbia, Hawaii, California, New Mexico, and Texas are already “minority-majority” states, and eight other states will join this list by 2020.

If the GOP does not soon adopt a “big tent” approach, it risks marginalizing itself as a national party.

Yes, the changing face of the U.S. may seem frightening to some people. But the GOP shouldn’t play upon these fears — it should help dispel them. Consider that the Pew Hispanic Center has found that Latino immigrants assimilate and learn English just like every other group before them. Or even that the pint-sized mariachi crooner de la Cruz was born in Texas — the son of a U.S. Navy veteran.

This story has a happy ending. The San Antonio Spurs invited de la Cruz back a second time, to sing the National Anthem at game four of the NBA Finals. Everyone from President Barack Obama to “Desperate Housewives” star Eva Longoria wished him well, and he nailed his encore performance.

With determination and confidence, young Sebastien triumphed over bigotry. What could be more American than that?

You can watch Sebastien de la Cruz singing the national anthem on YouTube.


Raul A. Reyes is an attorney and columnist in New York City.
Distributed via OtherWords (OtherWords.org)