Republicans are shocked – shocked!
They pearl-clutched and tut-tutted Tuesday after Democratic congressional candidate Alex Sink said at a candidate forum that Tampa Bay business leaders want immigration reform so that legal workers can “clean our hotel rooms or do our landscaping.”
The Republican Party of Florida condemned the "narrow-minded" comments. Sarasota's Republican Party called Sink a "racist." And Twitter and blogs lit up with the tired conservative indignation-argument about “if a Republican said that…..”
Well, turns out, Republicans and conservatives have said that.
“I am not in favor of a housekeeper or a landscaper crossing the border illegally,” Republican Sen. Marco Rubio said April 14, 2013 on CBS' "Face the Nation” while discussing his immigration-reform bill (a bill Republicans have blocked in the U.S. House and barely voted for in the Senate).
The news media didn’t make a fuss about Rubio’s comments at the time. Nor did conservatives. Nor did Republicans call his comments "narrow-minded" or "racist."
And that’s because the comments are true.
Immigrants, especially in Florida, disproportionately work in service-sector jobs. And national, state and local chambers of commerce have advocated for immigration reform because they represent businesses that employ recent immigrants (and perhaps illegal ones).
Spoiler alert: that includes farm workers, landscapers and maids.
That is, it includes people like Marco Rubio’s mom, who became a maid when she emigrated from Cuba. Maybe Republicans missed that part of his biography, which appeared in his autobiography “American Son” – a family story that was central to his prime-time speech at the 2012 Republican National Convention in Tampa.
Maybe they missed former Republican President George W. Bush’s recent book "Decision Points." He said his his family's Mexican housekeeper, Paula Rendón, was hired when he was 13 and was like "a second mother."
Maybe they forgot about Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney who recounted in a debate how he found out illegal immigrants were….wait for it…..landscaping his home. “I’m running for office, for Pete’s sake – I can’t have illegals,” he recalled.
Maybe they missed the conservative South Florida-based Shark Tank blog, in which conservative Javier Manjarres noted “the AFL-CIO and other unions could look to unionize the immigrant workforce in professions that are not currently unionized. Can you say Landscapers Union Local #101?”
Manjarres, a U.S. citizen from Colombia, once owned a landscaping business, by the way.
Nevertheless, Sink’s comments were pretty dumb.
A candidate in a close race needs to have a good message and stick to it. Saying immigration reform is good so we can have low-wage workers isn’t such a hot message -- especially for a candidate in a close race like CD-13. Having narrowly lost her bid for governor in 2010, Sink should know that anything she says that isn’t perfect isn’t going to help her.
This is what she said: “We have a lot of employers over on the beaches that rely upon workers and especially in this high-growth environment, where are you going to get people to work to clean our hotel rooms or do our landscaping? We don’t need to put those employers in a position of hiring undocumented and illegal workers.”
Turns out, this itty-bitty clip, recorded and disseminated by a Republican tracker, wasn't the whole story. Here's what Sink also said, which wasn't included:
"For every example that you hear I think about the high school valedictorian. I believe who live in this district now. He was brought here when he was a young man, nine of ten years old. He didn’t choose to come here, his parents brought him. He was undocumented. And what does he do? How does he get an education? He did everything right. He became an incredible student. He even eventually ended up going to law school and becoming a lawyer. But right now he cant practice law because of his undocumented status. That’s not right"
Still, it’s not like she said anything overtly offensive, despite the ersatz outrage and media criticism from biased people who hypocritically accuse the media of bias because we don’t espouse their bias for their financial and electoral gain.