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When It Comes to Latino Issues, the Tea Party’s Actions Are Less About Civics

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From LatinaLista, where this blog was first published.

When former NPR fund-raiser, Ronald Schiller, was covertly captured on video allegedly pronouncing Tea Party supporters were “seriously racist” and that NPR would be better off without federal money even though many stations would “go dark,” the shock and voluntarily rolled heads that followed were way overblown for stating the truth.

While I have met some Tea Party members who really are only concerned about getting this country back on track with the economy and jobs, they are a minority within their own group. I have met and read of way too many more who are exactly what Mr. Schiller described — racist.

Everyday, there is evidence of how Tea Party-backed state legislators are trying to transform their states to make life miserable for “undocumented” Latinos — and less safe for the general population and the most vulnerable of the undocumented.

For example, in Florida, a state with one of the largest international populations, there are a series of anti-immigrant bills trying to be pushed through by the Tea Party-backed Republican Caucus.

The bills cover three main points: 1. Every employer in Florida would participate in the federal e-verify database; 2. County sheriffs would be authorized to enforce federal immigration laws and; 3. Required participation in the Secure Communities program, a program documented as abusing its original intent of identifying and detaining high-level undocumented criminals but instead, is capturing and deporting undocumented immigrants with no criminal history.

If these bills should pass in Florida, while they probably will result in netting undocumented immigrants, they will also put the lives of undocumented victims of domestic violence at risk as well.

“This is a disaster,” said Reina Fernandez of Sisterhood of Survivors, referring to the laws’ potential effects for immigrant women suffering domestic abuse. “A lot of victims won’t call police for fear of being arrested,” she said. “They end up going to jail, not the perpetrator. Which women will call the police now?”

Consequently, Florida taxpayers would pay more to fund the mandates of a law that would make women less safe and neighborhoods more dangerous, opponents note.

Passing laws that adversely endanger a sizable portion of a state’s residents doesn’t make sense. Once again, the authors of these bills would rather be seduced by a mindset that is unforgiving, narrow-minded and sees today’s world through an unrealistic lens.

The undocumented population has been here for a long time. Pew Hispanic reports that new illegal migration has dwindled for the time being. Why is it so difficult for legislators in Florida, Georgia, Oklahoma, Kansas, South Carolina and Arizona to see that?

One reason is because the Tea Party is especially strong in these states. Yet, there are signs that rational compassion is making a comeback in public policy.

In New Mexico, legislators have reached a compromise in providing drivers licenses to undocumented immigrants.

Instead of outright repealing the driver licenses, which the state already authorizes, and which law enforcement says has shown impel more to buy car insurance because of it, the bill would set up a special provisional license for those without social security numbers while tightening requirements for those who apply when it comes to proving their identity.

And in California, Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck announced Monday that his officers will no longer automatically tow the cars of undocumented immigrant drivers stopped at sobriety checkpoints.

Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck said his department impounds about 1,000 cars a year from illegal immigrants at sobriety checkpoints – not because they’re drunk but because they don’t have driver’s licenses.

“As we reviewed our impound policies it became obvious to me that they had disparate impact on individuals based on something that was entirely out of their control,” Beck said.

California doesn’t issue driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants.

Under the new policy, officers will give unlicensed illegal immigrants “reasonable time” to find someone else to drive their cars home.

“No longer will these checkpoints have an adverse impact on somebody merely because of their (immigration) status,” Beck said. “The sad truth is that the people who were most impacted by this law were the people that could afford it the least.”

Rational compassion. That’s all it takes to really put this country back on track.