When George W. Bush won 49 percent of the Hispanic vote in Texas in 2004, I was hopeful for the future of the Republican Party.
But ever since, a coalition of Tea Party groups and other hard-line organizations that believe individuals of Mexican heritage are genetically inferior or incapable of understanding how to live in a representative democracy have controlled the GOP’s stance on immigration.
At no time was the destructive force of these ideologically bankrupt extremists clearer to me than at last weekend’s state Republican convention, where I was one of 31 platform committee members.
Initially, I was happy to see opposite ends of our party come together to craft language on immigration. Even more so than in 2012, our “Texas Solution” was influenced by the grassroots. It had an agreed-upon trigger that limited provisional visas, called for securing the border first and made clear that Texas, not Washington, should be able to decide when the border was secure.
The goal in developing our plan this year was party unity. A Tea Party leader named Doc, wearing a “Don’t tread on me” yellow shirt, stretched out his arms and told us he was willing to work with us for the good of the party. We agreed that both sides had to give and take. If we could strike an agreement on immigration, we could send a powerful message across the nation that would tell the Democratic operatives pouring into the state: Don’t mess with Texas.
I walked out of that meeting with tears in my eyes. I work with the Republican National Committee on Hispanic engagement. Texas leading on immigration makes it easier for me to reach out to the Hispanic community. In 2012, when a group of us from the Texas GOP were invited to appear on Spanish-language television, we put Democrats to shame as we brought up stark differences between our parties, noting that they were deporting Hispanics in record numbers while we had just come out for a guest-worker program. When we block-walked, phone-banked or organized community service projects in Hispanic communities, we were welcomed because, unlike the Democrats, we were not there to cart people off and send them back to Mexico.
Yet after working with my fellow committee members for more than 45 hours, our compromise immigration language was stripped from the platform and would not even be debated. It was replaced by a humiliating document filled with elements of Arizona’s disastrous Senate Bill 1070, including giving police the power to inquire about a person’s legal status while in custody. The immigration plank that was eventually approved also contains the destructive ending of in-state tuition for illegal immigrants and a mass-deportation-by-attrition framework. The rest of the details are humiliating — the work of charlatans claiming to be conservative, parading around our great state with no concern for our party’s future.
The GOP is at a crossroads. Will it embrace true free-market solutions and support its own bootstrapping principles and the American dream, or will it allow dinosaur politics to lead us to extinction? Maybe Dan Patrick and others enjoy the thought of reading 20 years from now on Wikipedia about what the Texas Republican Party once was. Not me.
During the last few days, I have been bombarded by emails and texts from leaders, activists and fellow Republicans who are waking up to the fact that we need to change the direction of our party. And if Texas wants to lead the nation, we first have to lead on immigration.