Feliz Cinco de Mayo.
One hundred and fifty-three years ago today, the Mexican army achieved a stunning upset victory over French troops at the Battle of Puebla.
A mere three days ago, the Charleston Cinco de Mayo Festival was held on dos de Mayo (hey, it was the closest Saturday to the fifth) at the Visitor Center on Meeting Street. The fun included two salsa bands and a mariachi band. Portions of the proceeds will go to the Trident Literacy Association.
More local Cinco de Mayo celebrations will be held today, some at Mexican restaurants.
And this former assistant manager of the long-defunct Clemson Mini-Mall Taco Tico, ex-Dallas resident and enduring devotee of burritos, nachos, chile rellenos, etc., hereby offers expert endorsement of the fine fare at Santi’s and Los Arcos.
Unfortunately, though, with lingering bad taste, some stubborn grudge carriers are holding back a solution to the problem of illegal immigration.
Sure, the federal immigration system is broken.
Yet when conservatives repeatedly block reform compromises while delivering often-ugly rhetoric, that doesn’t just give the president a freer hand while lowering chances for overdue legislation. It reduces the likelihood of Republicans regaining the White House.
Yes, as already-declared GOP presidential candidate Marco Rubio of Florida, a Cuban-American who backed a 2013 bipartisan immigration bill that passed the Senate, said Friday: “You don’t have a right to illegally immigrate here.”
Yes, we have to get our border in order and to push U.S. residents who speak only Spanish to learn English — not just for our good, but theirs.
And no, we’re not going to give back the land we stole, er, won, in the Mexican War.
However, we can’t deport any significant portion of the estimated 12 million illegal immigrants now in the U.S.
For conservatives to insist that we can isn’t just impractical. It’s politically suicidal.
The GOP has lost the popular vote in five of the last six presidential elections. And the party’s fading fast with the ever-growing Hispanic vote.
George W. Bush held his own with that part of the electorate while winning re-election in 2004, losing it by just 53-44 percent to John Kerry (according to the University of Connecticut’s Roper Center).
In 2008, despite backing Bush on immigration reform, John McCain lost Hispanics to Barack Obama by 67-31 percent. In 2012, Mitt Romney, after flipping (or was that flopping?) to a tough “self-deportation” line to win the Republican nomination, was routed by Obama, 71-27 percent, among Hispanic voters.
But that’s not the best argument for why right-wing hardheads should soften their immigration stances.
Fair play is. Look around our community. Lots of good people from Mexico and other Spanish-speaking nations — many of them here illegally — do good work at jobs that must get done. The powers that be have traditionally looked the other way while “undocumented” Hispanic labor filled those needs, especially in the agriculture, construction and hospitality fields.
This under-the-table (and over-the-border) status quo could finally change through guest-worker and, yes, pathway-to-citizenship programs.
First, however, many of my fellow conservatives’ self-defeating demonizing of productive folks must change.
Derisively dubbed “Lindsey Grahamnesty” by Rush Limbaugh nearly a decade ago, our senior senator has been a consistent, courageous voice on immigration. He’ll soon announce his own bid for the GOP presidential nomination.
Eight weeks ago in New Hampshire, Graham vividly framed the challenge to his party. He cited a hypothetical scenario of a young Hispanic-American joining the U.S. military, then returning from duty to find his grandmother being asked to leave the country. Graham aptly assessed the long odds against getting any coherent conservative message through to such a member of our armed forces:
“He’s probably going to have a hard time listening to my economic plan for revitalizing America if he believes I’m the guy that wants his grandmother to walk back to Mexico.”
So if you’ve long gone around logic’s bend on immigration, walk back to reality — and fairness.
Remember that for millions of U.S. residents, immigration crackdowns hit painfully close to home. Remember that no ethnic group has a monopoly on good, bad or in between.
And remember this American way: It takes all kinds.
Again, Feliz Cinco de Mayo.
And pass the salsa.
Frank Wooten is assistant editor of The Post and Courier. His email is firstname.lastname@example.org.