For a glimpse at how a Republican can turn a relatively moderate stance on immigration into a winning (or, at the very least, not suicidal) political issue, look at State Representative Jason Villalba.
Read the meditation he penned for The Dallas Morning News in which the 42-year-old wonders how to explain a "Catch an Illegal Immigrant Game" to his young daughter. Then, check out the open letter he sent yesterday to the Republican candidates for lieutenant governor.
Villalba still talks tough about opposing "amnesty," and he clearly has a finger to the political winds in the GOP, but his position is thoughtful, sincere and difficult to oppose without looking like a racist asshole.
Villalba, though, isn't the only Republican state representative pleading for a milder tone on immigration. At a Tea Party debate this week, Angie Chen Button, who represents the Richardson-Garland-Sachse corner of Dallas County, lambasted her party for its anti-immigrant stance.
"Thank you for having me, but If the Republican Party continues to have the attitude -- just don't give the newcomer, your new neighbor, an opportunity to prove how conservative I am -- I'm sorry, we are not being able to take back the White House," she warns over the crowd's jeers (fast-forward to about the 7:00 mark). "Please, show your respect and give an opportunity to the newcomers -- and I come here legally."
There are several things here that undercut Chen's message of tolerance. First of all, this declaration takes place after the debate has finished; she grabs the mic, shouts down the crowd and starts talking. It's also not clear what she's responding to. We haven't seen the the debate itself, just the closing statements, but the only provocation that's evident is challenger Jared Patterson's glancing mention of Button's failure to lead on illegal immigration, among several other issues. Also, is an extended rant at a Tea Party forum the most effective means of accomplishing anything?
The whole thing, with her allusions to meeting Newt Gingrich and raising $100,000 for the GOP, comes across as rather desperate. If Button's going to try to turn her pitch for reason on immigration into a winning political issue, she'd do well to study Villalba.
Send your story tips to the author, Eric Nicholson.
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