On the evening when the Democratic candidate for the presidency of the United
States eloquently accepted the nomination of his party in Boston, he made
no mention of the significant role immigrants play in his country and the
future of his party.
That gaffe presented to
the Republican nominee, who was at the time vacationing in Texas, with a golden
opportunity to attract the Latino vote in late August at New York City.
Given that the need for
immigration reform in the United States is a matter which neither presidential
candidate can simply wish away, John Kerry missed his cue. Kerry's advisers
had it wrong. Kerry forgot that the call for patriotism does not win elections.
By not talking about immigration
reform in Boston, Kerry did not heed the counsel of Louis Pasteur, the French
scientist, who said that chance favors the ready mind. And what a chance Kerry
Kerry had the right place
that night. Boston is an Atlantic seaport associated with the great waves
of Irish immigrants who crossed the ocean for a better life in the Americas.
Boston is proof of the
rise of the Irish and Catholics into the ruling elites of the United States.
One need only mention the name Kennedy to make the point. A Brazilian who
has married in Massachusetts is likely to have married with someone with ancestors
in the land of St. Patrick.
Kerry had the right woman
at his side that night. Although Kerry did mention his wife, a billionaire
on her own right, and his wife's values in his acceptance speech, Kerry chose
not to make any reference to the Portuguese ancestry of his wife and her fluency
in Spanish and Portuguese. Here was the introduction to a world which Latinos,
even Brazilians in South America, would understand, but which Kerry shelved
Kerry had a historic audience
that night. The Democratic convention of 2004 had the largest Latino representation
ever. Such numbers were used by political pundits and partisan spinners to
illustrate the rise and potential of Latinos in the U.S. a view espoused
in the popular best-seller book The Latino Wave by Jorge Ramos, a Mexican-born
TV journalist and writer.
For Ramos, Latinos will
decide who the next President of the United States will be. Kerry, a man who
enjoys surfing, chose not to ride the Latino wave that night even if he spoke
about restoring trust in the U.S. government and not misleading the American
people into war.
Kerry's supporters will
point to the Democratic agenda to show that if Kerry is elected that Kerry
will implement an immigration reform in the first 100 days of his presidency.
The problem with this vague hope is that the Democrats do not have the votes
to carry the day in Congress.
Nonetheless, in the culminating
moment of an otherwise uneventful convention, Kerry might have all but conceded
how to ride the Latino wave to President Bush by shelving the call for immigration
reform in the U.S.
President Bush will have
the right city and the right moment come this August to point out that the
conscience of the United States and the promise of America lies in the immigrant
communities all over the United States.
Brazilians are part of
the Latino wave, the largest ethnic group in the United States.
By praising the immigrant,
Bush will be on his way to building better goodwill for his political party
in the long term. Bush could showcase the lives of two distinguished Republicans
with immigrant roots: Arnold Schwarzenegger, an Austrian-born immigrant and
governor of California_the fifth largest economy in the worldand Rosario
Marín, a woman of Mexican descent and former U.S. Secretary of the
It has been said that
Latinos are conservative in their values by nature although one has to keep
in mind that all generalizations are not necessarily true.
Whether Bush will keep
his promise for immigration reform is a different matter.
The failure of the Republican-led
Congress to present to President Bush with a mini-immigration reform plan
before the November presidential election is testament that the Republican
party is divided as to how to deal with immigration reform.
President Bush has failed
as a leader in pushing for immigration reform, which at the very least provides
for work permits for undocumented immigrants, despite making one of his guiding
principles for immigration reform at a national press conference in early
However, by simply noting
the need for immigration reform in his acceptance speech at the Republican
Convention in one of the most diverse cities in the United States, and on
the shadow of the Statue of Liberty and close to ground zero where individuals
from close to 60 different countries died on a fateful September 11, President
Bush will be remembered for having smartly understood the Latino wave in this
global age in order to surf it into victory.
But, will President Bush
really seize this golden opportunity?
Edgardo Quintanilla is an immigration lawyer in Sherman Oaks, California.
He welcomes your comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.