Moyers: The Rise of Hispanic America
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BILL MOYERS: And he won 40 percent of the Hispanic vote.
MARÍA ELENA SALINAS: Exactly.
BILL MOYERS: In 2004, the record for Republicans.
JORGE RAMOS: Actually, probably up to 44 percent, probably.
MARÍA ELENA SALINAS: I remember interviewing President Bush exactly a week to the day, Tuesday before 9/11, about immigration. And that Thursday President Vicente Fox of Mexico spoke in Congress.
PRESIDENT VICENTE FOX: Our links are countless and ever-growing. No two nations are more important to the immediate prosperity and well-being of one another than Mexico and the United States.
MARÍA ELENA SALINAS: And it seems that there was just an ambience where everyone, even very hardcore conservatives, seemed to favor the idea of immigration reform. Then 9/11 happened and then immigrants were a threat even though Hispanic immigrants, you know, none of the terrorists crossed the border from the south. They all flew in and they flew in legally.
BILL MOYERS: Do you think that was a natural reaction?
MARÍA ELENA SALINAS: It was a natural reaction, but it really hurt, it really hurt.
BILL MOYERS: Reaction of fear. Did you take it personally?
MARÍA ELENA SALINAS: I think yes because after a while it became very negative against immigrants in the southern border as if Hispanic immigrants, Mexican immigrants, Central America, South American immigrants were a threat to this, the security of the country.
JORGE RAMOS: The conversation changed.
BILL MOYERS: It did?
JORGE RAMOS: The conversation changed—
MARÍA ELENA SALINAS: Definitely it changed.
JORGE RAMOS: Because, every Republican candidate with the exception of-- of Mitt Romney since Ronald Reagan support immigration reform with a path to citizenship. Of course for many Republicans that’s called Amnesty. Romney doesn't support that. Not yet. We'll see in all the debates, but we'll see if he changes or not his position. But the conversation changed because with George W. Bush he was for immigration reform with a path to citizenship.
And immediately after that then we got the rejection of the DREAM Act that would have given about 2 million undocumented students the possibility of staying in this country. Then we had SB 1070 in Arizona and then it was replicated in Alabama and in Georgia. So instead of discussing the possibility of what to do with 11 million undocumented immigrants, here we have this incredibly tough loss on immigrants. So the conversation and the approach towards immigration changed completely. And even nowadays we're discussing only DREAM Act probably or deferred action by President Barack Obama when the conversation should have been much, much wider.
BILL MOYERS: I remember Ronald Reagan was quite positive about immigration. He was quite pro Hispanic. He, I think he gave amnesty to three million immigrants then and—
JORGE RAMOS: Republicans were doing great. As you know Reagan used to say that Latinos are Republicans, they just don't know it. And he would—
BILL MOYERS: Well, he did say that. He did say you have common values in regard to the family, to religion--
JORGE RAMOS: Abortion.
BILL MOYERS: --abortion, issues on that.
JORGE RAMOS: Very conservative.
MARÍA ELENA SALINAS: Gay marriage, yeah, they're very conservative in that sense. But I think the, that's basically what changed everything. I remember reading some, an article where President Bush was asked what was one of his biggest regrets and he said not passing immigration reform. Because as a Republican and having a Republican Congress he could not convince his own party to support immigration reform.