How Many Hispanic Legislators is Too Many? – An Open Letter to Rebecca Forest and Alice Linahan
In 2011, Rebecca Forest, blamed Hispanic legislators for the failure to pass state immigration enforcement laws in the Texas legislature. Here’s her speech in front of the Capitol in Austin, Texas. Needless to say, her speech ignited a media fire storm! The anti-Hispanic bigotry was obvious, for example she seemed outraged that Hispanic legislators testified they had once worked in the fields. Huh? What’s wrong with working in the fields? Isn’t hard work a virtue? How about empathy for the less fortunate, and George W. Bush’s compassionate conservatism?
If you want to know why we can’t pass legislation in Texas it’s because we have 37, no 36, Hispanics in the Legislature. All of the states that have passed legislation have a handful and I mean literally, some of them have NO Hispanic legislators, well, maybe 3 or 5 or something. So that’s, umm, part of our problem and we need to change those numbers. Umm, we need to do something about that in fact, during the debate on “sanctuary cities,” several Hispanic legislators testified that their grandparents and their parents were migrant workers who came over here to work and that THEY even worked in the fields. And some of them even admitted that they had been here illegally and that they came illegally. So the problem is these Hispanic legislators … is that it’s too close to them and they, umm… simply cannot vote their conscience correctly. So that’s about all I have to say to you, please come to the hearing, and help us spread this message. Thank you.
Alice Linahan to the Rescue
Alice Linahan partners with Rebecca Forrest, and both co-founded an anti-immigration group known as “Women on the Wall” and quickly defended Rebecca Forrest, trying to spin the original speech as a complaint about Hispanic Democrats, liberals, etc. Here’s an audio clip of her interview with Scott Braddock of TexasGOPVote.com. Nice try Alice, but the original speech was crystal clear: Rebecca Forest clearly was talking about ALL Hispanic legislators, 36 in 2011, four of whom were Republicans.
How Many Hispanic Legislators is Too Many?
In 2011 there were 36 Hispanic legislators in the Texas legislature, both Democrat and Republican, liberals and conservatives. Now there are 34 Hispanic legislators in Texas, three of whom are Republicans: Larry D. Gonzales, Jason Villalba, and J.M. Lozano. So are Rebecca Forest and Alice Linahan satisified? I doubt it.
Compared to other states, 34 Hispanic legislators seems like many, but Texas has 180 total legislators, and Texas is 38.1% Hispanic, according to the U.S. Census. 34 Hispanic legislators out of 180 total is 19%, just half the percentage of Texas’ large Hispanic population. Clearly, Hispanics are underrepresented in the Texas legislature!
Rebecca Forest and Alice Linahan blame liberal Hispanic legislators for the failure to pass harsh state level immigration laws, but in reality many Republican legislators don’t think these laws are good policy either.
Following passage of Arizona’s notorious SB1070 law, copycat bills were introduced in 32 state legislatures, but only a handful of states passed these bills. Even states with strong Republican majorities in the legislature did not pass these bills, which often failed to pass out of committee.
To use Nebraska as an example, although Nebraska’s unicameral legislature is officially non-partisan, two-thirds of Nebraska’s senators can be readily identified as Republicans. Nebraska is a deep red state.
A Nebraska bill to copy Arizona’s notorious SB1070 won the support of just two senators in the Senate judiciary committee. A bill to restore funding for prenatal care for unborn children of unauthorized immigrant mothers was vetoed by Governor Heinemann, but despite intense pressure from Gov. Heinemann and the Nebraska GOP, the legislature voted to override the veto. A similar bill to restore in-state tuition for DREAMers also passed. At the time, Nebraska did not have a single Hispanic legislator, and half of the Republicans joined their Democrat colleagues to reject the anti-immigrant agenda.
Ironically, Alice Linahan founded an organization called “Voices Empower.” When Rebecca Forest and Alice Linahan claim there are too many Hispanic legislators, when in truth Hispanics are very much underrepresented in the legislator. Apparently the only voices Alice Linahan and Rebecca Forest want to empower are those voices that share their harsh viewpoints about immigration.
Sadly, there are now just three Hispanic Republicans in the Texas legislator. Pew Research polls have consistently found 60% or more of Hispanics are center-right, and over 30% are conservative, but recent election results show many conservative Hispanics are holding their noses and voting Democrat. Mitt Romney received approximately 23% of the Hispanic vote, less than the percentage of Hispanics who are conservatives.
The rhetoric of Rebecca Forest and Alice Linahan are illustrative of the problem… rhetoric from a small minority of Republicans are very alienating to most Hispanics. Bob Price ‘hit the nail on the head’ in his reaction to this outrageous claim Texas has too many Hispanic legislators.
Marco Rubio has been cautioning Republicans that “tone matters” and he is correct. It’s time for the Republican Party to put daylight between ourselves and extremists like Rebecca Forest and Alice Linahan. Their values aren’t those of the Party of Lincoln!
The problem with the conservative movement is not too many Hispanic legislators, but too many ugly Americans who have injected their hatred of immigrants into the conservative movement. Last November’s election should serve as a wake-up call. The GOP cannot continue to alienate two of America’s fastest growing demographics, Hispanics and Asians, with shrill rhetoric. Polls consistently show a majority of Republicans support immigration reform, including a path to legalization, but a shrill minority do not, and this shrill minority are able to intimidate Republican politicians into either silence, or only talking about enforcement, which enjoys broad support among Republicans.
Immigration extremists like Rebecca Forest and Alice Linahan would like for voters to deport Hispanics from the legislature, but I have a better idea…I’d like to see Rebecca Forest, Alice Linahan, and other immigration extremists self-deport from the conservative movement! Their values are entirely inconsistent with the compassionate conservatism of former President George W. Bush, and if Abraham Lincoln and Ronald Reagan could hear these shrill voices they would likely roll over in their graves.
The GOP is poised to follow the Whig Party into oblivion. It’s time for the Republican Party to rid ourselves of anti-immigration extremists. George W. Bush proved the Hispanic vote can be wooed, and not too many years ago Republicans consistently won lop-sided majorities of the Asian vote. We can do this again, but not as long as this shrill minority appear to be the face of the party.
Bob Quasius is the founder and president of Cafe Con Leche Republicans.