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Monday, September 29, 2008

Hispanics for Prosperity and McCain

Headquartered in Austin, the Hispanic Alliance for Prosperity Institute was launched in 2004 as part of an effort to boost Latino support for the Republican Party. Originally named the Hispanic Alliance for Progress, HAPI maintained its initials but switched the “P” initial to stand for Prosperity instead of Progress. Its figurehead, chairman, and cofounder is former Cong. Manuel Lujan, a conservative Republican who represented northern New Mexico in Congress for two decades. “Manny” Lujan is the owner of a large insurance company. He served as an anti-environmental and aggressively pro-business interior secretary under George H.W. Bush, who was the honored speaker at HAPI’s kickoff celebration at the Roosevelt Hotel in New York City in August 2004. HAPI’s other cofounder was Shiree Sanchez, who is a senior adviser to the John McCain campaign and (along with Manuel Lujan) a member of McCain’s National Hispanic Advisory Board. Ms Sanchez was appointed by George H.W. Bush to serve in the White House as Special Assistant to the President and Public Liaison. She is an Austin businesswoman, who is managing partner of Terra Capital Group and a senior advisor to Covalent Capital, a private equity firm focused on Latino investments. She is vice president of government marketing at FTLSolar.com in Austin. Shiree Sanchez’s name does not appear in the latest listing of HAPI’s board member and advisors. HAPI counts on a congressional advisory board including current and former Republican senators and congressional representatives, including: Congressman Joe Barton, TX; Congressman Henry Bonilla, TX; Congressman John Boehner, OH; Senator Richard Burr, NC; Congressman Ken Calvert, TX; Senator Saxby Chambliss, GA; Congressman Tom Cole, OK; Senator John Cornyn, TX; Senator Pete Domenici, NM; Congressman Elton Gallegly, CA; Congressman Louis Gohmert, TX; Congressman Doc Hastings, WA; Congressman Jeb Hensarling, TX; Congressman Darrell Issa, CA; Senator John Kyl, AZ; Congressman Jerry Lewis, CA; Senator Mel Martinez, FL; Congressman Gary Miller, CA; Congressman Michael Oxley, OH; Congressman Steve Pearce, NM; Congressman Pete Sessions, TX; Congresswoman Heather Wilson, NM. As People for the American Way in its RightWing Watch notes, HAPI’s advisory and policy boards “are made up of high-level Republican political operatives with deep ties to Republican administrations (Reagan, Bush I and Bush II). HAPI's boards are composed almost entirely of Republican players, including lobbyists, donors, and political appointees.” Leslie Sanchez, a member of HAPI’s policy board and director of its Leadership program, is prominent HAPI voice in the media. She is the executive director of the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanic Americans, and was Bush’s lead person on Latino education issues. Sanchez directed the first multi-million-dollar Hispanic advertising campaign undertaken by the Republican Party. She is the founder and CEO of Impacto Group LLC, a communications and market research firm. HAPI’s allegiance to the Republican Party was broadcast to the nation during the 2008 Republican Party National Convention, when HAPI cosponsored with the Hispanic Leadership Fund and the Latino Coalition, the Fiesta Americana Concert on Sept. 1, 2008, featuring Reggaeton star Daddy Yankee & Pop Artist Maxine Lausell. According to the event’s promotional statement, “This event…will demonstrate a clear message of support for key issues such as tough but fair immigration reform, free trade in the Americas and prosperity through ownership. The blockbuster event will highlight the McCain/Obama policy differences on these issues.”

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Hispanic Alliance Echos McCain's Charges Against Obama

The Hispanic Alliance for Prosperity Institute (HAPI), sponsor of the Hispanic Alliance for Prosperity, is a self-identified conservative public policy and advocacy organization “focusing on issues of importance to the Hispanic Community.” HAPI gained national attention in September 2008 with the release of a statement criticizing Senator Barack Obama over his role in the immigration policy debate and complimenting Senator John McCain. The Sept. 16 release, titled “Setting the Record Straight on the Candidates’ Immigration Positions,” asserted that, “amid countercharges” about the candidates’ positions, HAPI would “recite the FACTS.” HAPI echoed earlier charges by the McCain campaign in a Spanish-language television ad (titled “Hicieron Fracasar La Reforma”) that Senator Barack Obama helped kill the comprehensive immigration reform bill in June 2007. According to HAPI, “Barack Obama, despite his promises of support, was absent from much of the debate on the compromise, then turned his back on the proposal, siding instead with organized labor on a series of ‘poison pill’ amendments that even his supporter, Sen. Edward Kennedy, opposed. Among the proposals Obama supported were amendments that would have cut the number of Guest Worker Visas in half, and would ultimately have killed the program after just five years.” HAPI concluded: “In the heat of the campaign, overheated rhetoric and campaign promises should never eclipse the truth – and when it comes to comprehensive immigration reform, the truth is that Sen. McCain has shown courage and leadership, while Sen. Obama, despite his promises, ultimately sided with those who oppose comprehensive reform.” HAPI got it right that Obama did support a failed motion to cut in half the Bush administration’s proposal for a 400,000 guestworker program, and he did support a successful amendment that would have ended the proposed guestworker program after five years. It is also true that Obama was not a major presence in the 2007 immigration debate. But he didn’t turn his back on the bill, as HAPI stated. Along with McCain, Obama voted to move forward with the compromise bill. Conservatives have for the past two years been trying to pin blame on candidate Obama for the failure of the comprehensive immigration reform bill despite the fact that, as they attest, he was not a major mover in the immigration policy debate in the Senate. The HAPI release (and the McCain ad) followed the lead of an erroneous report by Brit Hume of Fox News during the heat of the immigration debate in 2007.
As a report on the Media Matters website observed: “On the June 7 [2007] edition of Fox News' Special Report, host Brit Hume claimed that Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) ‘managed to get’ an amendment to the comprehensive immigration reform bill ‘passed,’ and that it ‘may be the killer amendment that ... ends this bill.’ In fact, Obama's amendment, which would have required the bill's merit-based evaluation system for new visas to expire after five years, failed by a vote of 42-55 -- making it impossible for the measure to have ‘end[ed]’ the immigration bill.”
Obama did, however, support – along with 48 other senators – the amendment to sunset the controversial guestworker program after five years. While this amendment angered the business community that had been lobbying for an expanded temporary worker program, it did not kill the reform bill, as HAPI claimed. Despite increased enforcement provisions and onerous requirements for legalization, the Republicans – with the exception of John McCain – voted against the final bill largely because of mounting pressure from restrictionist groups and their constituencies

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Deportations Increase, Immigration Decreases

Here are the latest deportation – or as ICE now says – “removal” numbers. Since 2001 the number of immigrants deported from the United States each year has nearly tripled, rising from 115,500 deported in 2001 to an estimated 312,000 in 2008 (with the final calculation due out after the close of the fiscal year on Sept. 30). In 2007 the U.S. government removed 285,900 immigrants (including voluntary returns by immigrants who agree to deportation without a hearing). As the immigrant crackdown intensifies, the number of deportees has increased by approximately 25,000 in 2008. (communication with ICE, Sept. 23) Latest U.S. census numbers based on household surveys show that the immigration – legal and illegal – is declining. In 2007 the number of immigrants increased by only 511,000 – down from the average of a million a year since 2000. This dramatic decrease was underscored by a decline in the foreign-born population in 14 states, including in such traditional immigrant gateways as New Jersey and Illinois and such newer destinations as Nebraska, South Dakota and Kansas. Some destination cities like Phoenix and Denver experienced an increase in the immigration population in 2007. Anti-immigration groups attributed declining immigration mainly to increased enforcement – not just deportation but also increased border security – while pro-immigration institutes and many academics say the declines are mainly attributable to the stagnating U.S. economy, particularly the construction sector. Whatever the leading cause, it’s likely that fewer immigrants will be entering the United States in 2008 and 2009 as the U.S. economy continues to tumble and the immigrant crackdown spreads. The possible upside of this trend might be the declining influence of the mean-spirited immigration restrictionists, while the downside (already evident) includes the decline of remittances to poverty-stricken families in Mexico and other source countries, broken families in the United States, and the fading of vibrant immigrant-fed communities both in inner cities and rural America.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Republicans Echo Immigration Restrictionists

Tom Barry The draft Republican Party platform is a restictionist dream come true. Rather than following the less severe lead of its presidential nominee, the party platform committee took its ideological lead from the party’s social conservatives and nationalist right. Four years ago, immigration was one of the shortest sections of the platform. In a sign of the new-found strength of the restrictionists, the immigration section is one of the longest sections of the 2008 platform. The 2004 platform called for immigration reform to make immigration “legal, safe, orderly and humane.” Mirroring the Democrats, the party called for an expanded guestworker program and a path for illegal immigrants "to come out of the shadows'' and apply for citizenship. Reflecting the post-9/11 positioning of immigration enforcement within the Department of Homeland Security, the party platform situates immigration policy within the national security plank of its strident 2008 platform. Echoing the law-and-enforcement rhetoric of the immigration restrictionists, the platform also places the “rule-of-law” position against illegal immigrations front and center. “In an age of terrorism, drug cartels, and criminal gangs, allowing millions of unidentified persons to enter and remain in this country poses grave risks to the sovereignty of the United States and the security of its people,” states the platform. As it makes clear further on, the Republican Party is not only against having immigrants enter the country without authorization, it is against them “remain[ing]” here. Adopting the language of the restrictionists, the platform committee declared: “We oppose amnesty. The rule of law suffers if government policies encourage or reward illegal immigration.”
In another nod to the restrictionists and to the current crackdown, the party states: “Experience shows that enforcement of existing laws is effective in reducing and reversing illegal immigration.” And the party wants all to join in: “It means requiring cooperation among federal, state and local law enforcement and real consequences, including the denial of federal funds, for self-described sanctuary cities, which stand in open defiance of the federal and state statutes that expressly prohibit such sanctuary policies, and which endanger the lives of U.S. citizens.” Among the policies of sanctuary cities condemned by the party are “in-state tuition for illegal immigrants” and “other public benefits.” It does not explain how these policies threaten the lives of U.S. citizens. The party (as do the Democrats) endorses the EVerify employee verification system, stating that “our commitment to the rule of law means smarter enforcement at the workplace, against illegal workers and lawbreaking employers alike, along with those who practice identity theft and traffic in fraudulent documents.” Multiethic is okay, but not multicultural. “In our multiethnic nation, everyone — immigrants and native-born alike — must embrace our core values of liberty, equality, meritocracy, and respect for human dignity and the rights of women,” declares the party. Embracing the “official English” position of language restrictionist groups linked to the immigration restrictionists, the party says that English should be “the official language in our nation.” It calls English “a unifying cultural force” and an “important part of cultural integration.”
Unlike the party’s 2000 and 2004 platforms, which made multiple mentions ( more than 250 times in 2004, and more than 40 times in 2000) of the party’s standard bearer George W. Bush, there is only one mention (in the preamble) of John McCain. The legislative advocacy arm of the Family Research Council praised the platform as the most "conservative, pro-life and pro-family platform in Republican party history." Donald Devine of the American Conservative Union said, "It's certainly a vast improvement over the 2004 document.'' Reflecting on the history of the party’s nominee accepting the party’s platform, Phyllis Schafly of the right-wing Eagle Forum, said, “When we didn't do what Bob Dole wanted he just went out and said he wasn't going to pay attention to it anyway. And we know what happened to Bob Dole.'' Tom Barry directs the TransBorder Project of the Americas Policy Program and the Center for International Policy.