By Alex Gonzalez
Last week, Texas’s Governor Greg Abbott traveled to Cuba on a “mission” to promote more trade between the communist island and the lone star state. While this mission was highly welcomed by Texas business community, Abbott is the first GOP governor breaking ranks with the GOP establishment on the “Cuba issue.” However, at the same time that Abbott was in Cuba, there were many reports showing that there is “surge” of Cuban refugees reaching the southern U.S. border and entering through Texas.
According to the LA times, and based on the Pew Research, at least 44,000 Cubans immigrants reached the southern U.S. border during the fiscal year that just ended in September. Also, similar reports by Miami Herald show that, as the U.S. and Cuba seek to normalize trade relations, there is a wave of Cuban immigrants coming to the U.S. from South America – Ecuador and Central America – that eventually will enter through Texas. Yet, there is no outcry by GOP elected officials, or presidential candidates, about this looming wave of immigrants from the south.
This year, the number of Cubans that reached Texas is 44,000. This is also almost the same amount of Central American kids (57,000) that crossed into Texas last year and asked for asylum, which caused an uproar about “immigration crisis” in Texas among GOP elected official and party activists. However, so far this year, no one is making noise about this new “wave” of immigrants, and one has gone to border to take a pictures with these immigrants to show how tough they are against illegal immigration, not even the state party (Republican Party of Texas – RPT), which often uses border images of people jumping fences to show that the border is not “secure” and that Obama is weak on immigration, he has failed to “protect” America.
Too, the national party (RNC), used its social media apparatus to spread the image that the border was being flooded with Central Americans kids to show how Obama had failed to “secure the border.” But this year, the RPT and RNC are failing to note this increasing wave of illegal Cuban immigration.
And there are two reasons to turn a blind eye to this looming wave of Cuban immigrants. Republicans don’t want to upset the remaining Cuban bloc of voters if Florida in a presidential year where Florida will play a big role in the Electoral College count. Moreover, Republicans do not want to place Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz in a very uncomfortable position in front of Latino voters to openly say why they support giving services – and eventually citizenship – to these newly arrive refugees while they have oppose granting a path to citizenship for Dreamers who have lived all their lives in the U.S.
The issue here is not who get what between immigrant kids from Central America and Cubans immigrants, but why the Republicans party shows silence favoritism for some to avoid angering voters whom they perceive are essential to win Florida back in a presidential race. But equally important is to note that neither fences nor national guardsmen will be effective in stopping the flow of immigration from Central America minors and Cubans since all they have to do when they reach the Texas border is to turn themselves in. Thus, what is relevant here is how the politics of illegal immigration is played by the party.
It could be argued that Republicans, even those in Texas who last year took a tough stance against the kid from Central America, don’t want to talk about this wave of Cubans because they don’t want Cubans in Florida to get angry at the GOP if the party stars demanding the Cubans need to be “sent back,” and thereby, pushing more Cubans in Florida to the Democrats, and thus, making harder to win a state that has 29 Electoral votes.
While Obama won Florida with 60% of the Latino vote in 2008 and 2012, for the last two presidential elections the Republican vote from Cubans in Florida as decreased to only 50% as younger generations move away from the “Cuba issue,” issue that resonates mostly with older militants Cubans. And Younger Cubans favor Support for U.S. Ties With Cuba – And an End to the Trade Embargo.
Thus, in order to control the flow of Cubans deserting to Democrats, and keep the militant anti-Castro fever active, GOPers nationally, and in Texas, turn a blind eye on this wave of illegal immigrants and keep the narrative of “we need to secure the border” and we need better fencing; which also reinforces the false narrative that if it is illegal immigration must be Mexican, and shift the attention away from this preferential policy for illegal Cubans, despite the fact that now most of illegal immigration comes from China and India.
The anti-immigrant narrative pushed by Donald Trump and Cuban-American Senator Ted Cruz to curtail illegal immigration is “we need to secure the border with more fencing. But this is the preferred argument because it voids taking about Cubans immigrants, Ted Cruz does not want to tell the party activists that, due to an arcane cold war policy like the wet-foot, dry-foot policy, all that these Cuban immigrants have to do is turn themselves to the border patrol or Customs and they are on a “path to citizenship.”
Politically speaking, in a presidential election where the issue of illegal immigration has become such a “hot” issue for Republicans, it would be logical to think that Republican party does not want to have an open conversation about Cuban immigrants because it would expose the cultural fissures within Republican Latinos like Mexican-Americans who often complain that the GOP has a preferential views for Cubans. The other reason to remain silence about this wave of immigrants is the changing demographics in Florida among Latinos.
The Puerto Rican Wave
The demographics of Florida is another reason why Republican don’t want to antagonize Cubans with the issue of immigration. In Florida, Puerto Ricans who traditional vote Democrats soon will surpass Cubans as the biggest Latino ethnic group since the “economic crisis” in Puerto Rico is sending more people to Florida; too, more Cubans in Florida are registering as Democrats.
The Pew Hispanic shows shows that number of Hispanics of Puerto Rican origin living in Florida has surpassed 1 million for the first time, more than doubling the state’s Puerto Rican population over the past 14 years.
The analysis of 2014 data, the most recent available, finds that the number of Puerto Ricans in Florida has increased 110% since 2000, when their population was 479,000. This outpaces the state’s total population growth rate (24%), as well as that of Hispanics overall (78%) during this period.
The phenomenal boom of the Puerto Rican community – as well as some other Latino groups – in Central Florida has made the area a critical prize in the important swing state, and made Latinos a voting bloc that is up for grabs like never before.
Many say that Puerto Rican voters played a key role in President Barack Obama’s winning Florida in both 2008 and 2012. After decades of Latinos in the state leaning Republicans, in large part because of Cuban exiles who preferred the GOP’s assertive stance toward Cuba, many Latinos are now registering as Democrat and, even more, Independent.
And these new Latinos registering as Democrats come from both Puerto Ricans and younger generations of Cubans. And there is proof that Cubans are turning left. The president captured 48% of the Cuban-American vote in Florida—a record high for a Democrat, according to an exit poll and In 2004, Democrat John Kerry received 29% of the state’s Cuban-American vote, and in 2000, Democrat Al Gore won 25% of it. Overall, 60% of Latino voters in Florida voted for Obama in 2008 and 2012. Thus, as the Pew survey shows, not only Cubans are gradually becoming more liberal but also they support normalization of diplomatic retaliations between the US and Cuba, views that are ardently rejected by older Cubans who still vote Republican.
“They are being replaced by a younger, U.S.-born generation that tends to be more liberal along with more recent arrivals who come mostly for economic reasons, Mr. Gomez said. Both groups tend to care less about U.S. policy toward Cuba, the topic presidential candidates typically stress in Miami. They’re more interested in issues such as health care and education.”
As a result, because Republicans cannot afford to antagonize Cubans in Florida with harsh language on immigration, and thereby pushing more Cubans to the democrat arms and coalitions with Puerto Ricans and other younger Cubans; maybe and permanently turn the state purple, or blue.
For the Republican Party, in pivotal presidential election that was supposed to be as easy win for Republicans, keeping this older bloc of Cubans in Florida very active voting Republican means that they have to avoid lumping the new wave if Cuban immigrants with the issue of “illegal immigration,” and instead, keep the pressure and “border security” and walls with Mexico.
Karl Rove argues that, with a weak Republican ticket for the White House, every single congressional district and state that was won by 5 or less could be lost. Florida fits that profile.
As a result, Republicans avoid the illegal Cuban wave conversation because they don’t what to put Rubio and Cruz on the hot seat to answer why they still support this amnesty programs for Cubans as long and the party activists still think that if it illegal immigrants it must be Mexican.
In the recent Texas Tribune festival, moderator Julian Aguilar plainly ask Texas Congressmen Blake Farenthold (CD-27) John Ratcliffe (CD-4),why is that we have a surge of illegal Cuban immigrants coming through Texas yet nobody is saying anything? They refused to answer.
Moreover, According to Julian who has been wring about this issue, Ted Cruz, Greg Abbott, John Cornyn declined to make any comments about this wave of Cuban immigrants even though Cubans were “flooding” Texas ports in September.
But even if the Texas (RPT) assumes that it is best for party activist to think old preconceived ideas and want to give Rubio and Cruz a free pass to avoid taking about illegal Cubans to avoid angering militants Cubans in Florida, the GOP is following the same national “death spiral” ideas in which they rather favor few active Cubans in Florida than reaching out the millions of Mexican-Americans in the Southwest – including Hispanic Republican from the entire southwest, who for a long time have argued tone down the rhetoric and lets fix this broken immigration system comprehensively.
Among Hispanics groups, Cubans are the smallest ethnic groups and those who still adhere to the old generations of anti-Castro militancy are also shirking.
So yes, GOPers are engaged in group nepotism when it comes to immigration, but they are in denial because the Cubans boat they used ride, is no longer be there in two or three presidential circles.
True, in politics, perception matter more than facts, and for the GOP base the perception so that if it is illegal must be Mexican. And the party likes to keep it that way in an attempt to win Florida back.
Understandably, neither the RPT nor the RNC have any mechanism to change immigration policies like the wet-foot dry-foot. But it is the behavior of the party when it selectively address the issue of immigration that rises the questions why they stay silence about illegal Cuban immigration?
Alex Gonzalez is a political Analyst and Political Director for Latinos Ready To Vote.
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