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Commentary: Latinos likely losers no matter what

By Ruben Navarrette Jr.
Special to CNN
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SAN DIEGO, California (CNN) -- There's a phrase in Spanish that Latinos use to tell one another to be careful and watch out for surprises: ojo, mucho ojo. It means keep an eye out.

That's good advice as Latinos contemplate what immigration reform will look like if Democrats on Tuesday retake control of the House of Representatives, as now seems likely.

Bear in mind, the hard-liners on immigration reform -- who rail against amnesty, who pander to racists and who prefer sound bites to solutions -- are in the House of Representatives.

So the prospect of House Republicans going down in flames would seem to be great news for those Latinos who support giving at least some of the 12 million illegal immigrants in the United States a conditional path to legal residency.

But hold on. Ojo, mucho ojo.

Just because a GOP-controlled House of Representatives screwed up immigration reform six ways from Sunday doesn't mean that House Democrats will do any better, or that they'll even feel compelled to try. Remember this is the same bunch of cowards whose leadership, a few months ago, produced a 25-page booklet laying out what they intended to accomplish if they won control of the House. The booklet left out any mention of immigration reform beyond that piece of low-hanging fruit: border security.

Political experts agreed that Democrats were terrified that the immigration issue would hurt them in conservative districts. Hispanic Democrats were furious and publicly criticized the leaders of their own party for dodging the immigration issue.

Now, my hunch is that we're even less likely to see anything resembling amnesty for illegal immigrants under a Democratic-controlled House of Representatives than we were when the Republicans ran things.

Three reasons:

  • With Republicans in charge, you had their benefactors in the business community pushing hard for legalization in the hopes that it might provide additional workers. Democrats' benefactors are in organized labor, which has -- in the last decade or so -- come around to supporting legalization but not if it's tied to a guest worker program, which might be the only way that Republicans would sign on;
  • Once Democrats taste power, they're going to like it, and they're going to want to keep it. So they're likely to keep their heads down and not do anything that might increase the likelihood that voters will take a corrective action in 2008 and bounce them back into the minority. At the top of the list is passing anything that looks, sounds or smells like amnesty;
  • And Democrats won't think twice about betraying their Latino supporters on this issue because they take Latino votes for granted anyway. They haven't come up with a new strategy for getting Latino votes since the 1950s when Texas Democrats used to parachute into Hispanic neighborhoods at election time with tacos and beer.
  • So it's a safe bet that, even if Democrats retake the House of Representatives, Latinos eventually will come out on the losing end.

    The question is: What will they do about it?

    Ruben Navarrette Jr. is a member of the editorial board of the San Diego Union-Tribune and a nationally syndicated columnist. Read his column at link.

    The opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the writer. This is part of an occasional series of commentaries on that offers a broad range of perspectives, thoughts and points of view.

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    Ruben Navarrette Jr.: Amnesty for illegal immigrants is even less likely under a Democratic-controlled House.



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