Michael Huckabee, who has impressively come up from behind among the Republican presidential candidates, now leads in Iowa. The former Arkansas governor and Baptist preacher reaches new highs on likability when the other candidates don’t wear well.

Huckabee is credited with galvanizing the evangelical vote. He can draw Republicans to him. Yet, where the party goes on amnesty will define what kind of party the Republicans will become.

President Bush, after winning re-election in 2004, had his try at it but was unable to get intransigent parts of his party to follow his leadership. Keep in mind that Ronald Reagan was able to create new niches in the party after his amnesty program legalized nearly 3 million immigrants in 1986.

Big change, even reversal, is possible in the Republican Party. After all, pro-life televangelist Pat Robertson endorsed pro-choice Rudy Giuliani. Robertson said at the time combating terrorism was more important than concerns about abortion.

In light of that, Huckabee’s pragmatic approaches as governor in 2001 were tepid at worst. He opposed a state bill requiring proof of citizenship to vote and his administration pushed to allow undocumented immigrants to apply for drivers’ licenses.

In 2005, the same year that Huckabee was opposing a federal roundup of undocumented immigrants in his state, the Minuteman Project, co-founded by Jim Gilchrist, was mobilizing its public-relations sentries along the Arizona-Mexico border. The Minuteman Project had split into two groups that militantly opposed most forms of tolerance of unauthorized immigrants.

The Minuteman Project is now fractionated into different camps with extremists infiltrating or welcomed into their ranks.

Meanwhile, Huckabee has announced he now supports an immigration control plan that would expel 12 million people, albeit temporarily. And Jim Gilchrist has endorsed him for the Republican nomination.

In the next episode of this soap opera, the Minuteman Project’s ardent supporter, Colorado Congressman Tom Tancredo quit his quest for the nomination on Dec. 20. He was unable to gain more than a low single-figure percent in public-opinion polls. Dropping out, Tancredo endorsed Mitt Romney, saying, “He is the best hope for our cause.” Romney and Giuliani have previously exchanged barbs over who is soft on immigrants.

Romney’s hard line, according to the Rev. Luis Cortis, president of the evangelical group Esperanza USA, is driving the other presidential candidates to take intransigent positions. The heated rhetoric is mostly perceived as anti-Hispanic. If Romney becomes the Republican candidate, says Cortis. he’s going to lose every Hispanic vote.”

That’s not an exaggeration when you consider, according to the Pew Hispanic Center, over half of all Hispanic adults in the U.S. worry that a family member or a close friend could be deported.

The Huckabee public-opinion surge in Iowa could have been a healthy antidote and the beginning of a new style Republican coalition. After all, a winning Republican strategy requires the twofer Hispanic evangelicals. Instead, the primary campaign is turning into a siege on the GOP.

President Bush’s former speechwriter, Michael J. Gerson, wrote about the Huckabee endorsement, “Gilchrist is not just another voice on immigration. He is one of the most divisive figures in the most divisive debate in American politics.” Gerson noted Gilchrist had previously even made reference to insurrection and called for Bush’s impeachment for wanting immigration reform.

Is it any wonder that, if this keeps up, you can expect the same hooligans and extremists who took over much of the Minuteman Project to show their faces as the new Republicans. They are the same ones who mobilized to stop immigration reform when it had a chance in the U.S. Senate and why immigration reform is such an issue today.

It’s not a bad time to remember Henry Fonda’s line in the movie “12 Angry Men”: “Prejudice,” he said, “always obscures the truth.”

(Jose de la Isla, author of “The Rise of Hispanic Political Power” (Archer Books, 2003) writes a weekly commentary for Hispanic Link News Service. E-mail


  1. Sandra Price

    Under the Republicans, there are no firm laws left on anything. Jose de la Isla speaks for his Hispanic roots not for the American Constitutional laws. But how foolish that sounds after 7 years of Bush. His own countrymen from Mexico are being used as near slaves in America. Had they come in honestly and with legal paperwork they would be living in the kind of economic stability that Mexico never could offer them.

    I live in Arizona and the Minutemen are our heros. Our border patrol agents are our heros including the two that are still in prison for shooting an illegal for trying to import the drugs that are killing our kids. He is still alive and was caught trying again to bring drugs across the border.

    Americans are not prejudist against Mexicans as most of our neighbors here have Mexican roots we are however prejudist against people breaking our laws.

  2. Steve Horn

    Sandra –

    “Americans are not prejudist against Mexicans as most of our neighbors here have Mexican roots we are however prejudist against people breaking our laws.”


    Of course, it’s not like Bush and company (or mosts politicians, so it would seem) have any objection to breaking the laws (or defining them for their own convenience) themselves, eh?



  3. SEAL

    The illegal imigration issue should not be an issue because it is illegal. This is just another prime example of how bad our political system is when candidates would support some form of excusing lawbreakers just to get a significant section of the voters to support them.

    Any large block of voters will receive the promise for their pet want regardless of whether it is the right thing for the nation. The AARP has successfully played that card for many years

    With the immigration issue there is a backlash vote that must be measured and that is difficult to access. But the point is that none of these candidates should be courting the immigration vote one way or the other. If you’re in this country illegally you should be sent back. If that causes hardship for your family you knew that could happen going in. You broke the law, it’s your fault, so don’t ask me to help you. Get out of my country and do something about your own if you don’t like it.

    Any candidate that favors some form of amnesty or other program that would allow illegals to remain here is nothing but a weasel doing anything he can to get elected to a position where he can get filthy rich taking bribes. An honest man would never support breaking the law. In fact, he would say that those who came here illegally should never be allowed to apply to imigrate or even visit the US.

    Those candidates that are ducking the issue are the smart ones. They stand a better chance of being elected by not committing. But If elected they will not allow any illegals to stay here.

  4. ekaton

    The figure of 12 million “illegals” is usually cited as the estimated number of Mexicans here who have illegally crossed the border. About three years ago, the at that time Mexican el Presidente Fox estimated the figure to be 18 million and I’m guessing his estimate was conservative. Today there must be at LEAST 20 million “undocumented” Mexicans here.

    It has been said that it would be impossible to round them all up and deport them. Some ask how it could possibly be done. I say how about ONE AT A TIME? We spend 40 BILLION DOLLARS a year combatting illegal drugs, mostly to little effect. I see no reason we couldn’t spend 30 billion on drugs for the same results, and spend 10 billion on finding and deporting illegals, and not just illegal Mexican immigrants, but immigrants of any nationality, including caucasian Europeans or Eurasians, for those who might consider any of my remarks racist.

    Designate a special branch of ICE to concentrate on rounding them up and deporting them. Anchor babies? They can take them with them when they return home, and when the U.S. citizen child is 18 years old, he or she can return legally to the U.S. as an adult, or the parents can hand custody of the child to an American friend or relative, or lacking some such, hand over custody to the state.

    Problem solved at no added expense.

    — Kent Shaw

    PS — By the way, who did all those jobs Americans refuse to do before the illegal immigrants arrived? Could it possibly have been Americans? I’ll happily pay 25 cents extra for a head of lettuce. But its not just dirty, sweaty, difficult agricultural jobs being filled by illegal immigrants. They are also taking over the construction trades and the meatpacking industry’s jobs, and working for a lot less money than Americans formerly employed in those industries. I guess that explains the huge drop in housing and food prices over the last few years. :-/

  5. SEAL

    Kent: There is a much less expensive way to get rid of all the illegals in this country. In fact, it would cost us nothing. All congress would have to do is pass a bill requiring every employer in the nation to furnish a list of their employees and copies of proof of their citizenship every 90 days.

    There would have to be fines and criminal penalties attached to make it scary enough to prevent employers from “hiding” a few under the table and so the wealthy society ladies would be afraid to keep those maids they now have for pennies a day.

    Pass that bill and you would see caravans heading South in 30 days. Mass self deportation.

    I know nothing of the meat packing industry but farms and construction would suddenly have plenty of job openings. I will explain how these businesses have operated for many years.

    In each area there will be one to several (depending on the size of the area) “Boss” mexicans that are legal citizens. They have many illegals they have formed into “crews” specializing in different types of work. The farmer or contractor calls the “Boss” and tells him what he needs. They negotiate a price for the crew(s). The Boss is responsible for delivering the crews on time, he supervises, and he translates all the orders because none of the illegals speak any English. The farmer or contractor pays the Boss who takes his off the top and then pays his crew. Boss makes a very good living. Crew lives 10 to a room in some slum lords place, gets drunk every Friday night, and sends half of their weekly pay home.

    The farmer or contractor can hire the manpower to do his job for less than half what it would cost to hire legal workers. And he gets workers that always show up on time and work hard with no complaints. Go out to any field at picking time or any construction site and you will see only 10% white and black americans. The rest will be hyspanic. Now, this is not 100% true. It depends upon the area and the type of population. But anywhere there is a sufficient illegal population it will be this way.

    Pass this bill and the cost of food and housing will go up. So will the quality of the construction. Whatever, but it would solved the illegal immigant problem and cost the taxpayer almost nothing.