Update: Following media coverage, Univision rejects ad discouraging Latinos to vote, ThinkProgress reports
After years of leading efforts to block immigration reform that does not involve severe criminal penalties, Republicans are looking for a new way to message the Latino community.
They may have found it in Nevada.
Attacking Democrats for failing to pass comprehensive immigration reform as promised, a Republican 527 group is running a television ad that urges Latinos not to vote.
Calling themselves “Latinos for Reform,” the group is purchasing $80,000 worth of air time on the Spanish-language network Univision, which is already heavily invested in the Ya Es Hora get-out-the-vote campaign.
That ad itself is a bit disingenuous, even apart from the fact that it discourages voter participation.
First it alleges that Democrats vowed to pass immigration reform right off the bat in 2008. This isn’t true. While President Obama and his allies in Congress have promised to reform immigration policy, a lengthy battle over health care reform, compounded by a gridlocked US Senate, ensured this did not happen. There was initial speculation that President Obama would tackle comprehensive immigration reform after the health bill was passed, but the issue was viewed as too large to tackle before the midterm elections.
Democrats did, however, try to push immigration reform by way of the DREAM Act, which Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) tried to attach to a defense appropriation bill in hopes of making a vote against it seem politically unsavory. He pulled it after some members of his party said they’d rather address immigration straight-on, rather than through a parliamentary tactic.
The DREAM Act would have allowed undocumented people to enlist in the military, go to school and get their green card so long as they’d been in the US longer than five years and have no criminal history.
The ad also says that Democrats have a “supermajority” in both houses of Congress. This is also untrue. As the health reform debate showed, 60 senators are needed to form a “supermajority.” The Democrats hold 59 seats in the Senate. With so many members of the party leaning conservative, Democrats tend to faction up more readily than Republicans, who often produce party-line votes.
“Clearly, the Democratic leadership betrayed us,” the ad continues. “And now, when they need our votes, they are at it again with more empty promises. Aren’t you tired of politicians playing games with your future? Do you really think it will be different this time?”
An image of Sen. Reid flashes across the screen.
“Democratic leaders must pay for their broken promises and betrayals. If we just go on supporting them in November, they will keep playing games with our future and taking our vote for granted. Don’t vote this November. This is the only way to send them a clear message.”
The ad, which is running so far only in Nevada, clearly targets Sen. Reid.
In 2008, Latino voters favored Obama by a margin of nearly 3-1, according to a Pew Research Center poll. Without their support, Democrats would have been hard pressed to make up the difference. But could not voting really “send a message”? It seems unlikely.
That’s because by not voting, Nevada Latinos would be helping to elect tea party favorite Sharron Angle, whose positions on immigration and the Latino community in general seem out of touch at best.
In a recent Angle television ad, a photo of three allegedly “scary looking” Mexican men is flashed across the screen as a narrator speaks ominously about illegal immigrants. The photo also cropped up in another ad for Sen. David Vitter (R-LA).
Turns out the photo was taken in Mexico, depicting three farmers whose crops were destroyed. When news stories about the image began to surface, the photographer took to his blog to castigate the use of his creative work, alleging that Republicans had appropriated the photo without permission or proper licensing.
When asked by a group of students to explain her ad depicting “scary looking” Mexicans, Angle tried to conflate the men with Canadians. Then, bizarrely enough, she told the group of mostly Latino students that many of them look “Asian” to her.
“So that’s what we want is a secure and sovereign nation and, you know, I don’t know that all of you are Latino,” she said. “Some of you look a little more Asian to me. I don’t know that. What we know, what we know about ourselves is that we are a melting pot in this country. My grandchildren are evidence of that. I’m evidence of that. I’ve been called the first Asian legislator in our Nevada State Assembly.”
During the 2008 elections, the same conservative 527 group behind the “don’t vote” ad promoted racial wedge issues among the Latino community by suggesting that Obama would place Africa over Latin America.
Latinos for Reform is chaired by Robert Deposada, former director of Hispanic affairs for the Republican National Committee. Quoted by Politico’s Ben Smith, Deposada said he could not ask Latinos to support Reid’s opponent.
“I can’t ask people to support a Republican candidate who has taken a completely irreponsible and bordering on racist position on immigration,” he said.
But by not voting, that’s exactly what they’re doing.
This video is an English-language translation of the Latinos for Reform ad.
Stephen C. Webster
Stephen C. Webster is the senior editor of Raw Story, and is based out of Austin, Texas. He previously worked as the associate editor of The Lone Star Iconoclast in Crawford, Texas, where he covered state politics and the peace movement’s resurgence at the start of the Iraq war. Webster has also contributed to publications such as True/Slant, Austin Monthly, The Dallas Business Journal, The Dallas Morning News, Fort Worth Weekly, The News Connection and others. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenCWebster.
Raw Story is a progressive news site that focuses on stories often ignored in the mainstream media. While giving coverage to the big stories of the day, we also bring our readers' attention to policy, politics, legal and human rights stories that get ignored in an infotainment culture driven solely by pageviews.
Founded in 2004, Raw Story reaches 9 million unique readers per month and serves more than 30 million pageviews.