Horizon, Host: Ted Simons

August 19, 2010


Host: José Cárdenas

Latino Republican Groups


  • Arizona's immigration law has two state Hispanic Republican groups divided on the issue. DeeDee Garcia Blase, founder of Somos Republicans, and Jesse Hernandez, Chairman and Founder of the Arizona Latino Republican Association, talk about their organizations and differences on SB 1070 and other issues.
Guests:
  • DeeDee Garcia Blase - Founder, Somos Republicans
  • Jesse Hernandez - Chairman and Founder, Arizona Latino Republican Association
Category: Immigration

View Transcript
José Cardenas: Good evening and welcome to "Horizonte."

José Cardenas: You'll hear from leaders of two Latino Republican organizations about their missions, their differences on issues such as S.B. 1070 and a whole lot more. All coming up next, on "Horizonte."

José Cardenas: Funding for "Horizonte" is made possible by contributions by the Friends of Eight, members of your Arizona PBS station.

José Cardenas: Thank you for joining us. I'm José Cárdenas. The Democrat and Republican parties both have their positions when it comes to S.B. 1070 and immigration. Here in Arizona, the new law has two Hispanic Republican groups divided on this and other issues. Here to talk about these differences and to tell us more about their organizations is Jesse Hernandez, Chairman and Executive Director for the Arizona Latino Republican Association. And Dee Dee Blase, Organizer and Founder of Somos Republicans. Welcome to both of you.

Dee Dee Blasé and Jesse Hernandez: Thank you.

José Cardenas: Dee Dee, let's start with you. Tell us about your organization.

Dee Dee Blasé: Well, we founded Somos Republican in 2009, April. We grew rapidly because -- well, we -- I saw a need for Hispanic Republican organization, an organization that went into the neighborhoods and listened to himself needs. In Arizona alone, we have 4,000 members and just expanded to California. Now we have 249 members in Texas, and we have formed a midwest earn group and soon to be Virginia.

José Cardenas: Your comments suggested there was a void you saw. What was that void?

Dee Dee Blasé: Well, United States people like -- The group, ALRA, if you look at their website, they haven't changed it. It still has VIVA bush. It wasn't trendy or up to date and I felt a need for new blood.

José Cardenas: Any involvement -- you were referring to Jesse's organization, but what about involvement with other established figures, such as the former superintendent of public instruction in Arizona and the former policy advisor to the governor on Mexico and any connection with them or criticism that maybe they weren't filling the need?

Dee Dee Blasé: I have worked with Reuben and Jaime and they've been supportive of us. I see Reuben, especially, as the godfather of Latino Republicanism here in the state of Arizona. I have a lot of respect for him. With regard to Betina, I did work with her in the 2008 McCain Primary Election and I haven’t had much contact after that.

José Cardenas: Is your concern in terms of the need for a different voice for Arizona Latino Republicans with Jesse's group?

Dee Dee Blasé: Yes.

José Cardenas: Jesse, tell us about your group.

Jesse Hernandez: Founded around 2002, I was the original founder. And I was head of the organization, about 2004 until I resigned to run against Harry Mitchell in Tempe. And understand his leadership, things have happened. The organization, we expanded quickly and went into a lull where we did not move as quickly as we wanted to. I was asked to come back in April of this year and base, I'll be candid, we've started to grow since I took over quickly and, you know, she's talking about there's a need, a void, I agree, because I believe the Latino community, they picture us as being monolithic, if the sense we're going to agree but there was a void that there was needed a true conservatorship. We're pro-life and fiscal responsible. With me taking over the helm, our board has been able to move in the right direction and we're fortunate. Margaret Garcia Dugan, who is running for public instruction is part of our organization. And we have another person who is running for congress and there's a need for conservative Latinos and we have met that. In the past, we've unfortunately, tried to play the middle ground and apiece both sides and that was not working. With --the difference between our group and hers is we take a strong position and won't waver. We're not the biggest organization, but I like to think we're small but mighty.

José Cardenas: How big are you?

Jesse Hernandez: At the top, 500 people here in the state of Arizona. And we're constantly growing because our website is outdated and we're going through a remodeling right now. I took over the helm back in April. We're from the process of becoming a 501(C)(4), and take on campaigns and candidates and still in the redevelopment stage right now. So once we get our websites going -- now, we belong to the national Republican Latino council which we are in 22 states. And I'm constantly talking with the chairman and we're going to have a lot of Latinos coming out in October in support of us.

José Cardenas: The two issue, fiscal responsibility and I think in terms of pro-life.

Jesse Hernandez: Pro-life, yes.

José Cardenas: Do you really think your positions differ from Somos Republicans?

Jesse Hernandez: I think -- when I think about -- I know they're pro-life but sometimes when we have an issue -- I'll give you example. Let's take S.B. 1070.

José Cardenas: We'll talk a lot about that, and immigration. But on what many would consider core issues for Conservative Republicans, do you really think there's much difference between your group and Somos Republicans?

Jesse Hernandez: Probably not.

José Cardenas: And these terms of them wavering on issues, what were you referring to?

Jesse Hernandez: Immigration.

José Cardenas: And Dee Dee, what do you think sets you apart from ALRA?

Dee Dee Blasé: Immigration.

José Cardenas: And were you basically in agreement with the positions that ALRA was taking before it became a big issue?

Dee Dee Blasé: Not really.

José Cardenas: What's the concern?

Dee Dee Blasé: Well, the Arpaio issue. Some of the members were endorsed by Arpaio and Andrew Thomas. Janet -- you know, the people he sides with, such as Janet Contreras, I -- those are the kinds of candidates that I believe hurts the Republican Party.

José Cardenas: How so?

Dee Dee Blasé: Well, we're the fastest growing population here in the state and we have a bunch of young kids who are going to be adult soon and of voting age and according to the PEW Hispanic report, over 85% of the total Hispanic population are against laws such as S.B. 1070. You can't -- in the way I want to handle immigration is via the free enterprise way, the CATO institute way, and I believe the Republican party embraces competitive labor and there's a need for that and if it weren't for the immigrant, I believe our nation would have been bankrupt.

José Cardenas: Would you favor a guest worker program?

Dee Dee Blasé: Absolutely.

José Cardenas: Jesse, there are many who think the Republican party is committing suicide or shooting themselves in the foot in terms of recruiting and gaining votes from the Hispanic community, President Bush, his re-election did fairly well. 44%, I think. Are you concerned at all that this is going to cost -- the positions that the Republican party is taking, the position your group is taking on the immigration issues is going to defeat that progress?

Jesse Hernandez: I don't think it is. You know, people have to understand, the last time we had an Amnesty Program was under President Reagan and we were going to have another under President Bush. But I don't feel it's going to hurt us because when I'm out there talking, people tend to think we're monolithic. When I go and talk at functions and stuff, from Guatemala, El Salvador, thanking me for taking this position. One thing I hear from them, they work so hard to get their legal status and the fact if we were to have an amnesty program that's being touted by a lot of politicians, it cheapens their citizenship that we worked so hard for.

José Cardenas: 60% to 70% of the Hispanic population, both documented and undocumented is of Mexican descent. Won't it drive Hispanics back to the Democratic Party?

Jesse Hernandez: I don't think that's going to happen. You have to remember -- I keep hearing Proposition 187. This is not the first time. We had Prop 200. We didn't see the backlash. The last bill went to Janet Napolitano's desk. We didn't have the backlash. If we had it, it would be back when Prop 200 passed. Doing away with the benefits and entitlements. In California, it happened rapidly and we haven't seen that in Arizona yet.

José Cardenas: Dee Dee, a lot of controversy over comments by Harry Reid in that he doesn't understand why any Hispanic would vote Republican. Is that a legitimate question, especially with the concerns you have with the Republican Party is taking on immigration?

Dee Dee Blasé: I think it is a question, but I think he made a -- that was a comment that had prejudice, the old southern way of thinking. He was -- he also made a similar comment about Obama. And his --

José Cardenas: Which got him in a lot of trouble.

Dee Dee Blasé: Yeah, so --

José Cardenas: When you're out recruiting and I know one of your goals is to generate greater voter participation by Hispanics in the Republican Party, what do you tell those people? Why would I be a Republican given the positions that the Republican Party is taking on immigration?

Dee Dee Blasé: Number one, it's pro-life. I believe we are, you know, Pro-Second Amendment. A lot of Mexican-Americans do become business owners. Quickly, when they become business owners, they quickly find out how government gouges them with taxes and as they become business owners and realize the bureaucracy they have to deal with, as small business owner, then they eventually become Republicans. So they belong here.

José Cardenas: So your point would be that it's not a one-issue thing?

Dee Dee Blasé: Right.

José Cardenas: And there are other reasons for Hispanics to be attracted to the Republican Party. And Jesse, that does seem to be the pitch and the basis for some of the inroad that's Republicans have made amongst Hispanics. But going back to 187, the analysis, what happened there is that they went too far and you had videos of very ominous videos of people crossing the border and invasion and to a certain point, drove people who might support the things that Hispanic people might have supported in the past -- now it's getting too personal and I've seen a video of you standing next to Pamela Gorman and she starts to talking about rapes and beheadings and molestations all of the things that S.B. 1070 was designed -- isn't this an insult to Hispanics because it implies that they're more prone to those kind of crimes even though nobody has found a person who's been beheaded or that it would have been prevented by S.B. 1070. Isn't that part of the problem?

Jesse Hernandez: I think when Pam got out there, she works close with the police department and that's the information. But to say that the Latinos are the only ones that contribute to that stuff --

José Cardenas: Isn't she implying that?

Jesse Hernandez: If you were to look at that, yes, she's implying that does happen.

José Cardenas: Shouldn't your group be disassociating themselves interest that rhetoric?

Jesse Hernandez: Not really, the fact she supports S.B. 1070 -- we're not going to agree on everything. Some people say we should have a full-blown amnesty and others say no. We agree on many the issues, not all of it.

José Cardenas: Do you support Russell Pearce?

Jesse Hernandez: I do, and the bill.

José Cardenas: He said the same things. Do you support those statements by him?

Jesse Hernandez: What I do support is the fact that we have a black market. I was on a show where I took -- I showed him to drop houses and they beat this woman severely and she lost her baby. I have been to these places. I've seen it and been to these places.

José Cardenas: And your support for Sheriff Joe Arpaio is a bone of contention or difference between the two groups. What do you say about that?

Jesse Hernandez: Here's the thing where the groups contradict themselves, is the fact, I think her attacks on sheriff Joe is not policy, but personal. She attacks J.D. Hayworth because he takes a tough stand on illegal immigration. But her groups goes out and campaigns for McCain but he's saying, I'm tough on immigration, reelect me. Where's the contradiction? J.D. is for S.B. 1070 and McCain is supporting the same bill and she doesn't attack him.

>> How do you respond? A lot of people think that senator McCain has gone way to the right on the subject of immigration.

Dee Dee Blasé: Absolutely. McCain is the experience we need in walk Washington. He does not want to lose to J.D. Hayworth. He had to move further to the right because at the time, J.D. Hayworth was five points -- inching closer to McCain.

José Cardenas: So do you think that justifies what he has done on the subject of immigration?

Dee Dee Blasé: Right, with regard to Jesse's concern about our hypocrisy, McCain has a history of championing Hispanic causes. Like the immigration reform under bush. That has a lot of credibility. Talk is cheap with us and he's walked the walk. Put his head on the chopping block for us. And I believe Hispanics voted for the wrong person. McCain is the one who put his head on the chopping block for us. Not Obama. So where is McCain's confidence level? There's -- we didn't vote for him. I did. But over 75% of Hispanics voted for Obama. So McCain's confidence went down with regard to the Hispanic people voting for him. So, of course, he's going to go to the right. But the fact of the matter remains, he did put his head on the chopping block for us and talk is cheap --

Jesse Hernandez:: But does that justify him going to the right? That's the question. He did a bill with Senator Kennedy that was pro-amnesty.

Dee Dee Blasé: No, it was absolutely not. Taking pictures by the border. Doing the Clint Eastwood look. Squinting into the camera. Now that the points are ahead of J.D. by 20 point, now he's talking I don't know about the 14th amendment. Now he's singing a different tune now he's going right in the center, to the middle ground and we know if you can't --

José Cardenas: It's not clear he's gone back to the center. Is that you're anticipating that he will?

Dee Dee Blasé: I hope he continues to be the pioneer. I hope he sees Hispanic growth is going to be phenomenal here in the state of Arizona. I believe he's a politician that can bring the Republican Party back to the party of Abe Lincoln. Not Dixie-Crats. And Jesse Hernandez works with David Schweikert. I take issue with that because he was endorsed with Russell Pearce. I don't see the hypocrisy with McCain because he's quoted as saying I believe S.B. 1070 is going in the right direction.

José Cardenas: I'm give you a chance to respond on the other comment, but let's talk about S.B. 1070 because we said we would. Your group opposed it, why?

Dee Dee Blasé: It violates the constitution.

José Cardenas: The Supremacy Clause?

Dee Dee Blasé: Correct.

José Cardenas: Is there any role for the states to take in terms of dealing with illegal immigration?

Dee Dee Blasé: Sure.

José Cardenas: What would that be?

Dee Dee Blasé: Do what Napolitano did, put more troops at the border.

José Cardenas: Jesse, you can make a quick comment on the Schweickert thing.

Jesse Hernandez: I'm an independent, and it was Dee Dee that introduced me to David and pushed me to do consulting work for him. It's not like I do any political work with him.

José Cardenas: S.B. 1070, your group supported it.

Jesse Hernandez: Yes.

José Cardenas: You were critical of the judge's decision.

Jesse Hernandez: Yes.

José Cardenas: Why?

Jesse Hernandez: I was in the court, we were part of the litigation, filed a brief with the freedom watch and I was in the courtroom listening to the talk and drilling the lawyers and attorneys, and I don't think she stuck to the some of the other cases that have been decided. My personal opinion is that she's trying to legislate from the bench.

José Cardenas: Have you read the opinion?

Jesse Hernandez: I've read the opinion and I just don't -- I'm not an attorney, about my attorneys are telling me, she did not go on any previous cases. They pointed out of several cases that contradicts what she's talking about.

José Cardenas: Most legal scholars who have no particular role in the litigation think it's a well-reasoned thoughtful analysis of the Supremacy Clause. And they would point out that immigration along with bankruptcy are the only two items in the constitution that the -- that the constitution talks about that -- uniform national policy. And, therefore, they think it's a well-reasoned decision. You disagree.

Jesse Hernandez: I disagree because -- and I wish I would have brought the notes but there's another constitutional scholar came out and said she had -- it's out of her jurisdiction and it goes right to the Supreme Court. And it depends on what constitutional scholar you talk to.

José Cardenas: You suggested what many thought would be highly inappropriate conduct by the judge. That she may have been talking to President Clinton or President Obama or to attorney general holder. All things that would be completely inappropriate for any judge. What basis did you have?

Jesee Hernandez: The basis is that the Obama Administration, they tend to get involved in a lot of things. Some of the things I can't, of course, prove it, but they tend to get involved in a lot of things at all level, I'm curious to find out.

José Cardenas: Why would you say that if you had no basis?

Jesse Hernandez: That's a -- that's a pretty serious charge against a judge. That was my opinion and the opinion of our attorney and we were talking about this because the way she was talking, the day before she made her judgment, it seemed she was going to be reasonable and all of a sudden, they went right to the left.

José Cardenas: Since then, have you developed information to support those allegations?

Jesse Hernandez: We've not gotten anything back. I requested under the freedom of information, if we can subpoena the phone calls from Bill Clinton, Eric Holder, anybody from the White House.

José Cardenas: Dee Dee, what do you think is going to happen? There's a tremendous divide and a lot of Hispanics who think that we do need to do something about illegal immigration. They may not be as extreme as Russell Pearce or Pam Gorman but they think something needs to be done and those are the people that Jesse's group appeals to.

Dee Dee Blasé: I believe we should secure our borders, but the reason we're having this problem is because we don't have a sound immigration system. Right now, there's a bottleneck. And we need more checkpoints and create more guest worker programs so that people can be documented and come in and out of the country. Let's face it. Most of the people who come here are fine with working here. For a season, and going back to their ranches in Mexico. Most of the undocumented are -- 80% are ranchers, poor ranchers, and I'm a big believer in allowing a person to achieve the American dream and put food on their tables.

José Cardenas: We've got a little over a minute left. Let me ask you, Jesse, another hot button issue. Anchor babies. You might have been one.

Jesse Hernandez: Not sure.

José Cardenas: Don't we have enough controversy without throwing that issue into the fire?

Jesse Hernandez: I agree, I agree. We have a lot of controversy are especially with the Latino Community. We have to address it one way or the other. Times have changed.

José Cardenas: Just about out of time. You have to wrap up.

Jesse Hernandez: You know, I want people to understand we're not anti-immigration, we're just for legal immigration.

José Cardenas: Got it. And we've got like five seconds if you have anything to say. I apologize we ran out of time. [Laughter] Talk maybe after the elections. Thank you both very much.

José Cardenas: Remember, you can always go to your website, azpbs.org/horizonte for transcripts, information on upcoming shows and more. And that's our program for this Thursday night. For all of us here at "Horizonte," I'm José Cárdenas. Have a good evening.

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