GOP candidates forget Reagan on immigration - East Valley Tribune: Opinion

GOP candidates forget Reagan on immigration

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Jose de la Isla writes a weekly commentary for Hispanic Link News Service. Email him at

Posted: Thursday, September 15, 2011 4:01 pm | Updated: 11:34 pm, Sun Sep 18, 2011.

MEXICO CITY - A recent Republican presidential debate was held Sept. 7 at the Ronald Reagan Library in California. No serious Republican would campaign for the nomination without claiming to be in Reagan's tradition. But no one there was.

Reagan served as president during another one of those fevered periods of U.S. history, like the present one, when as a nation we had both very serious economic problems, an increasing deficit, unemployment and a wild hair in the public mood. It was a mood that feeds a red herring (a deliberate attempt to divert attention from serious issues).

Ronald Reagan was not a saint, someone above it all. In fact, on Main Street he was called the candidate of the fruits and nuts. But this much is fact: In 1988 the Reagan administration oversaw and he signed a full amnesty bill into law. What guts!

How different Ronald Reagan was than the two major candidates for the Republican nomination with executive experience, former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney and Texas governor Rick Perry.

Remember the Twilight Zone? Welcome.

Instead of putting on the mantle of Ronald Reagan, they disowned it.

Referencing Obama's recent visit to El Paso, Texas, and the President's comment that "the border is safer than it's ever been," Perry mocked that "Obama either has some of the poorest intel of a president in the history of this country or he was an abject liar to the American people."

Actually, El Paso has been among this nation's safest big cities for most of the last decade, with a lower violent crime rate that toggles behind Honolulu and New York, reports Even Men's Health magazine ranked El Paso as the second "happiest" city in the U.S., trailing only Laredo, another border town. And just last July, Perry's own Texas Department of Public Safety ranked Laredo first in crime reduction.

Similar relative low-crime rates hold for most border cities. So, who's the liar?

Which brings up the cliche that you are entitled to your opinion but not entitled to make up the facts.

Gov. Romney is similarly truth-challenged. He had the audacity in the face of declining illegal immigration across the southern border, even some reverse migrations, to propose measures as if the opposite were occurring.

Romney called for -- you're not going to believe this -- a fence along the entire border. Haven't we already turned this corner and decided this idea is both impractical to the point of bordering on dementia? There's no better way to bankrupt a spent budget.

Then he called for more U.S. agents to secure the fence. And added other measures to turn off the "magnet" drawing illegal immigrants, like an abundance of jobs. Did I hear correctly? Are these the sharpest knives in the drawer? Are Republican audiences bamboozled this easily?

There are sufficient reasons to criticize and even seek to part loyalty with President Obama following his outrageous double-cross of Latino constituents during his three years in office.

At least he had the guts to stand before a National Council of La Raza conference in July and tell the truth as he sees it -- even though for many of us his logic doesn't wash. He is doing the same at the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute Sept. 14. His nonperformance will be in the spotlight.

Which makes for a curious comparison: Obama, at least in his campaign pledges on immigration before Latino audiences and to the nation, is more in keeping with the Ronald Reagan legacy than any Republican seeking the presidency.

Jose de la Isla writes a weekly commentary for Hispanic Link News Service. Email him at

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