Jon Huntsman suspended more than just his campaign this week. He also put an end to any hope the GOP had of making strides in the Latino community.
And despite the stereotypes, because of the Obama administration’s policies, there really was hope. The administration has increased the number of deportations to nearly 400,000 people a year since taking office, according to ABC News. Likewise, in Secretary Janet Napolitano’s annual report to Congress, she describes the Department of Homeland Security’s efforts to be at “record highs.” President Obama’s first term has featured twice the number of deportations as George W. Bush’s by instituting a systematic approach to immigration enforcement not seen since the infamous days of “Operation Wetback,” a program in which President Dwight Eisenhower deported over a million Mexican nationals, among them American citizens.
One might think this would be an opportunity for the GOP to make inroads with the Latino community, but the Republicans seem confident they can sit idly by as Latinos simply run into their arms. The GOP claims economics are Latinos’ most important issue, but with over half of Hispanics within a generation of the immigrant experience, migration is also a profound issue (and one with profound economic consequences). And on that issue, most of the GOP candidates have done little to distinguish themselves.
But Huntsman was different. He was perhaps the only candidate who managed not to offend Latinos throughout the primary. Huntsman rightfully saw the wall on our southern border as repugnant to American values. By arguing for tough border control, yet also supporting in-state tuition for the children of unauthorized residents, Huntsman was able to conceptually distinguish the dangers of an unmanaged border from the benefits of those who came in search of a better life.
Huntsman also comes from the same Utah Mormon milieu that produced the Utah Compact, a set of principles endorsed by civic and business leaders, and the LDS Church, that asks politicians to “adopt reasonable policies addressing immigrants in Utah.” The Utah Compact also opposes a policy that unnecessarily separates families, a significant acknowledgement of the harm our immigration laws do to Hispanic families.