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Greg Siskind on Immigration Law and Policy

IMMIGRANT OF THE DAY: MEL MARTINEZ - US SENATOR

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Mel_Martinez
Mel Martinez is a Cuban-born Republican US Senator from Florida. He came to the US as a refugee in 1962 as part of Operation Peter Pan, a Catholic Church-sponsored initiative that brought 14,000 children to the United States. Senator Martinez practiced law for 25 years in his home town of Orlando and was elected in 2004 to replace Democrat Bob Graham.

Senator Martinez is also one of that rare breed of pro-immigrant Republicans who supported comprehensive immigration reform. In 2006, Martinez was named as Chairman of the Republican National Committee in part because of his party's concern about the drop in support for Republicans with Hispanic voters. But when he warned his party that it risked permanent minority status if it continued with the anti-Hispanic tone, he was shown the door. Now that it has become clear that he GOP will never win the White House again if they don't improve their standing with the growing Latino voter population, I expect Senator Martinez's stock to begin to rise again.

Senator Martinez was on Meet the Press this morning and he discussed the election with Tom Brokaw. Specifically, the two talked about the impact of the Hispanic vote on the election. Martinez noted that Hispanic voters shifted enough to the Democrats to cost the GOP the state of Florida. Brokaw brought up the article in USA Today from Friday that had these quotes:

"If the Republicans don't make their peace with Hispanic voters,
they're not going to win presidential elections anymore. The math just
isn't there," says Simon Rosenberg, head of the NDN, a Democratic group
that studies Hispanic voters.

Bush was popular with Hispanics and, along with McCain, tried to pass
an immigration bill that would have allowed about 12 million illegal
immigrants to earn citizenship. But a fierce backlash from
conservatives has led to an anti-immigrant image for the Republican
Party.


*****

Obama also carried 75% of U.S.-born Hispanics
and he won 35% of the Cuban vote itself, "the highest any Democratic
candidate has ever scored," [Democratic pollser Fernand] Amandi says. "This shows a road map for
Democrats to win in Florida for generations."

In Nevada, New Mexico and Colorado, analysts see
a replay of California's demographic and political evolution.
California hasn't voted for a GOP nominee since George H.W. Bush in
1988. "If these trendlines continue, Texas and Arizona will be in play
in 2012," Rosenberg says.


Martinez agreed that the Republicans have a serious math problem and he referred to statements made by Jeb Bush saying the same thing.

The biggest gift the Democrats could give the Republicans would be to ignore Hispanic voters and skip dealing with immigration. Should this happen, if I were Mel Martinez I would focus on convincing my party to take a position something along these lines: "The Democrats promised you progress on immigration, but it was just talk. They take you for granted. Come back to the Republican Party - the party that more closely fits your values - and we'll deliver. Remember, it was a Republican President that fought for comprehensive immigration reform. Our party committed to getting control of illegal immigration first and then moving forward with more comprehensive reform. President Bush delivered on enforcement. And the Republicans will deliver on the rest if you give us the chance."

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