Whenever I write on immigration, I receive emails and letters inviting me to go back to Mexico, where I "belong." Never mind that the last person in my family from Mexico left there in 1701 -- and I don't speak Spanish.
If Republicans want to get back to winning 35 percent or more of Hispanic votes -- the high is 44 percent -- we've got to change not just the rhetoric but also the policies we pursue. Republicans had the chance to support the Dream Act, which would have granted legal status to illegal immigrants who came here as children and have lived most of their lives as Americans.
This should have been an easy call -- but the stranglehold that anti-immigrant groups have on GOP elected officials pushed them to oppose this sensible and humane legislation. President Obama took advantage of Republican folly and issued an executive order that accomplished much of what a law might have. In doing so, he managed to re-ignite Hispanic enthusiasm for him, which had waned considerably since 2008, and win re-election despite a dismal record.
The illegal immigration problem is not difficult to solve if Republicans choose to do so. It means passing a flexible legal immigration law that would allow the numbers of workers to fluctuate with the economy's need for their skills. But this means admitting more legal farm and poultry workers, hotel and restaurant workers, laborers and domestic workers, as well as scientists, engineers and mathematicians because we need people at both ends of the skills spectrum.
If the Republican Party insists on blocking such legal immigration reforms, it will go the way of the Whigs.
Linda Chavez is chairman of the Center for Equal Opportunity and author of Betrayal: How Union Bosses Shake Down Their Members and Corrupt American Politics .
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