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RNC Chairman Ken Mehlman Addresses The U.S. Hispanic Chamber Of Commerce

Washington, D.C. – RNC Chairman Ken Mehlman addressed the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce today in Washington, D.C. Chairman Mehlman’s remarks addressed the critical issue of comprehensive immigration reform. The following is a transcript of Chairman Mehlman’s remarks as prepared for delivery, and sent to me via email.

I haven't had time to read through the whole thing, but I thought I would put it up and hear from you all. Also, make sure to read Linda Chavez column tomorrow morning, once its up. She gives some facts I do agree many are ignoring, regardless of what position you want to take. I don't think it helps anyone when pundits resort to attacks and ignore the facts because it may not support their position.

Now, back to Mehlman...

What do you think? Any hits? Any misses? Read on...
Thank you, Mike, for that kind introduction, and for the hard work you’re doing here at the Hispanic Chamber, and for serving this country at the Small Business Administration.

And thanks to all of you for being here, and for letting me have this opportunity to speak with you.

In 1978, a then-obscure advertising consultant from Texas named Lionel Sosa went to California to meet Ronald Reagan – Reagan wanted Sosa to take charge of his Hispanic outreach campaign.

As Sosa tells it, Reagan welcomed him into his office and then shocked him by announcing that Sosa's job would be relatively easy.

Sosa asked how it would be easy to persuade Hispanics to vote for a Republican.

And in classic Reagan fashion, the Gipper responded that Hispanics were already Republicans ... they just didn't know it yet.

If the 2004 election was any indication, more than three million Hispanics have discovered that they agree with President Reagan.

Those 3.3 million Hispanics who voted for George W. Bush two years ago represented 44 percent of the Hispanic vote – and nearly 1.3 million more votes than he had won four years previously.

Some folks have said the President won those votes because he speaks Spanish.

Of course, no one who actually speaks Spanish says this.

The President earned such strong support in the Hispanic community because he speaks common sense and delivers real results.

It’s common sense that churches and other faith-based armies of compassion can help those in need.

It’s common sense that faith should have a place in the public square.

It’s common sense that judges interpret the law, not invent it from the bench.

The President’s education reform is delivering real results, with new records on reading and math test scores for Hispanic children, and the number of Hispanic students taking Advanced Placement courses more than doubling since 2000.

Our commitment to pro-economic growth tax relief and lawsuit reform is delivering real results, with almost 5 million new jobs in the last 30 months, with Hispanic unemployment close to an all-time low, with an environment of entrepreneurship and risk-taking that has led to Hispanic small business growth rates that are among the highest in the nation.

Our efforts to create more Hispanic homeowners are yielding amazing progress, with closest to the largest percentage of Hispanic homeowners ever.

And we’re not stopping there.

We have an agenda to make health care more affordable and available, to reduce energy costs, and to ensure that America remains the world’s leader in innovation and technology.

Those are the reasons Ronald Reagan has been proven right, and more and more Hispanics are discovering that yes, they are in fact Republicans.

But they’re not the only reasons.

President Reagan was about more than policies, and more than politics. He was about leading America, and carrying on the American dream. President Reagan practiced the politics of ‘and’.

Before President Reagan, some politicians counseled strength in response to the Soviets, while others called for peace.

Ronald Reagan was the leader who stood up and said we will have peace through strength.

When economists said we could control either inflation or unemployment, Ronald Reagan said we can do both … and he did it by cutting taxes and insisting on sound money.

When others said we can either be energy independent or dependent on foreign oil, Ronald Reagan said it was a false choice and deregulated the oil industry … and gas lines disappeared.

Today, I believe that we still can, still must, practice the politics of ‘and.’

And there is no issue that exemplifies the importance of this more than reforming our immigration system and securing our borders.

There has been a lot of rhetoric about immigration and border security over the last few months, but not enough communicating.

Too much talking, and not enough listening.

And it seems to me that the politics of ‘or’ has dominated the argument, culminating in an attitude that doesn’t solve anything … of my way ‘or’ the highway.

Today, I want to speak to both sides of the debate.

And I am here to say that they are both right … and they are both wrong.

And no good will happen until they come together to discuss the issue, not politicize it.

We will not have solutions until we come back to practicing the politics of ‘and.’

So let’s start at first principles: America is a nation of immigrants and a nation of laws.

Ronald Reagan knew that we were a nation of immigrants.

In his farewell address to the nation, President Reagan called America a “shining city on the hill” with the doors “open to anyone with the will and the heart to get here.”

Across the world, over the generations, people looking to make better lives for themselves and their families have been attracted to our open doors.

And we are better off economically, culturally, militarily, in every way, stronger because of those brave people.

What’s so powerful about the American Dream is that it has nothing to do with where you come from, what you look like, or how or if you pray.

The American Dream is about your destination, not your origins.

Unfortunately, throughout our history, there have always been Americans who believed that coming to these shores was a right reserved only for them and their ancestors, and for no others.

In an opinion survey in May 1938, fully 68 percent of the public opposed letting refugees from Germany and Austria enter the United States.

In 1924, Morris Sheppard a Democrat Senator from Texas said that the increasing rate of immigrants in American cities “all tends to show that the United States has become a Tower Of Babel.”

In 1905, a Republican Senator from Massachusetts, Henry Cabot Lodge, called for “more restrictive legislation” partially because of “the effect upon the quality of our citizenship caused by the rapid introduction of this vast and practically unrestricted immigration.”

Ladies and gentleman, that was wrong then … and it is wrong now.

Those who predicted then that America’s culture would be changed by those immigrants were right.

America always has and always will be changed by the immigrants who come to our shores: changed for the better.

Immigrants renew and restore America’s soul.

America is safer because of the more than 12,000 soldiers who have been naturalized since the beginning of the War in Iraq.

We are wealthier and more productive because of an immigrant, Andrew Grove, whose computer chip technologies are moving our world at faster speeds.

Our culture is richer because of people like

Architect Cesar Pelli, from Argentina;
Fashion designer Oscar de la Renta, from the Dominican Republic;
And baseball Hall of Famer Rod Carew, from Panama.

We are a better nation because of public servants from both parties like Congressman Henry Cuellar, the oldest son of migrant workers, and Mel Martinez, an American Senator born in Cuba.

Because of people like Carlos Gutierrez, who was born in Cuba and rose to become Kellogg’s youngest ever CEO and our nation’s first Hispanic Secretary of Commerce.

People like the director of the Peace Corps, Gaddi H. Vasquez, the son of migrant farm workers from Mexico.

To my fellow conservatives: we believe in a strong defense because freedom is not free.

Who shows a stronger commitment to freedom than those who leave everything and everyone to be part of our American democracy?

We believe our nation is strengthened by strong families, active faith, and vibrant communities.

Who better to strengthen our communities and fortify our institutions than those willing and anxious to put tar on roofs in 100-degree weather to provide food for children they love?

We believe our free enterprise system must constantly be infused with new energy and vitality.

Who better to strengthen capitalism than those whose who will work the extra hours for the dream of one day starting a small business?

These men and women aren’t just enriching America … they are America, and they always have been.

But today, just like a century ago, some people wonder “can they really be American? They look different. They act different. They eat different foods, and speak a different language.”

Well, what do you think they said about the Germans and the Irish and the Jews not too long ago?

When Americans go out to an Italian restaurant for dinner, do they think “we’re eating foreign food?”

When we celebrate St. Patrick’s day – and I’ve seen some impressive St. Patrick’s Day celebrations in this country – do we think “this is a foreign holiday?”

On our nation’s great seal are the words E Pluribus Unum: out of many, one.

We have always absorbed people from many cultures, and it has always made our own unique American culture richer.

And we haven’t needed the federal government to do it for us.

As a conservative, I believe our vitality, our strength, lies in our free actions, not in government mandates.

Do people really think we need a federal “Office of Assimilation,” with all of the attendant bureaucracy that our government is so fond of?


Assimilation has always been a quiet tide that has risen from our neighborhoods … from our towns … from our cities … as people from different backgrounds meet each other, marry each other, work together, pray together, live together and build a great nation together.

The melting pot of America works not because of laws we pass or pronouncements we make in Washington, but because in a free society, people from different races fall in love and get married … people from different religions go into business together … people from different nations become neighbors.

Today, somewhere in this country, there’s a family new to America.

They might be a family of migrant workers, or day laborers.

They might be living in California … or Michigan … or Florida.

They woke up today and went to work.

They will come home at the end of the day to spend time with their children.

They will eventually buy a house … or start a business … or write a book.

They are building a new life.

And that’s what America is all about.

Their love of family reflects our values.

Their work ethic strengthens our economy.

Their energy renews our national spirit.

And for their sakes and our own, we must always be the shining city on the hill, with the doors open.

So that’s one side of the ‘and’ argument.

And here’s the other.

We are a nation of laws … and we are a nation at war.

We must also always protect ourselves from those who hate us for what we are.

On 9-11, the terrorists didn’t distinguished between fifth generation Americans and those like Milton Bustillo, a new husband and father who came here from Colombia … or Juan Ortega Campos, an immigrant from Mexico, who was saving to build a better life for his children … or Carlos DaCosta, a native of Portugal, who ‘was general manager of Building Services for the Port Authority’ and a father of two.

All were among the victims.

And in this new war, we must – must – control who enters our nation.

It’s not a trick, not scapegoating, not a dishonest means to a nefarious end.

Border security is a codeword for one thing: border security.

There are those, right now, today, who are examining our borders, looking for weaknesses.

They don’t want to come here to become American … they want to come here to destroy America.

And though they might number a mere handful among the millions of others, we learned on 9/11 what a mere handful can do.

We will not let that happen again.

That is not the only reason we must control our borders.

One of the reasons America is the first universal nation – a nation united by ideas, not race, creed or place of origin – is because we are all held to account by a common rule of law.

As the Supreme Court says so eloquently, “equal justice under law.”

This simple concept has brought down the rich and powerful and provided justice and mercy to the weak and vulnerable.

And respect for this basic concept is critical to an America where we are all treated the same.

If the law applies to some people – those who waited on long lines to enter this nation according to the law, for instance – but not to others, those who enter illegally, then we are betraying the very concept that has allowed this nation of many to become one America.

Controlling illegal immigration is also an issue of fairness to American taxpayers.

Is it fair if people are using public services like schools and roads, but are not paying taxes?

Is it fair when people live outside the system?

No, it is not … and everyone pays in the end.

Indeed, far too often, illegal immigration’s real victims are the immigrants themselves, exploited by those who know that their legal protections cannot be enforced.

So let’s accept the ‘and’ premise:

We are a nation of immigrants.

And we are a nation of laws.

And together, we must practice the politics of ‘and,’ forging a new way, a solution that recognizes these two essential concepts.Because if we give up on either one … If we close ourselves off to the very lifeblood that gives our nation strength and vitality … Or if we say ‘anything goes’, to heck with our laws and system of justice … Then we have given up on America.

And this President, this Administration, and this Party will not let that happen.

That is why this President, this Administration and this Party believe in a comprehensive solution to this problem, one that embraces our history and our compassion, one which keeps our doors open … but one which also recognizes the rule of law and keeps our nation secure.

First, we must control our borders. We need more people, more technology, and more money at the border. There can be zero tolerance for illegal immigration, and porous borders.

Second, we need more interior enforcement. Last year, the President signed the Real ID Act into law to make sure our driver’s licenses and government issued IDs can’t be faked. We need to hold employers accountable for hiring illegal workers, and real IDs will make this enforcement possible.

Third, we need to ensure fairness to the millions of legal immigrants who entered America the right way, according to the law. It would be unfair for illegal immigrants to get in the front, while those who followed the laws wait behind them in line.

And, finally, we must have a temporary worker program that meets our economic needs without encouraging illegal immigration.

If there are people willing to do jobs, and jobs that need to be done, we should be trying to bring those two together, not keep them apart.

We can do that by using the same methods and technologies we use to keep terrorists and drug runners from crossing our borders. If we can identify them, we can also identify carpenters and farmers and tech workers whose help we need.

And while we’re talking about temporary workers, let’s make something very clear.

A temporary worker program is not the same thing as amnesty.

Amnesty would mean letting illegal immigrants become citizens without penalty.

That’s what happened in 1986.

Leaders of my Party -- including the President -- who favor a guest worker program believe there should be a penalty.

Some have proposed forcing illegal immigrants to pay a fine or return to their nation or wait at the back of the line.

Just today, there was talk of differentiating between those who have been here five years or less.

There are many points of view.

But insufficient penalties are not the same as no penalty at all.

So what should the consequences be?

Should they be fines? Should they be deportation? Something less severe? Something more severe?

And what about those who do come forward and agree to face the consequences?

In the American legal system, we have a long tradition that those who admit guilt often have a reduced penalty.

These are all things we must consider and discuss, because there will not be amnesty: there must be consequences for illegal immigrants.


These are all issues for us to decide together, in a civil discussion as a nation.

You are part of this debate, and I thank you for playing a constructive role.

With enough people of good faith, we can cut through the rhetoric on both sides.

We can discuss and debate in a civil manner.

We can practice the politics of ‘and.’

It’s vital that we do all of these.

Because if we do, then I guarantee that we will find a solution that will do our nation and all of its people proud.

Thank you.
Tags: Politics, border, Homeland Security, MEXICO, Immigration, Illegal Aliens, Border Security, California, GOP


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